A PhD is often the capstone of a learning journey. For some students their area of study is an academic interest, and for others it is a life-long passion, and for others it is both. Take for example recent UNE PhD graduate John Gaga whose learning journey originally began when he studied Theology at Ameva Bible College, Zimbabwe in 1997.
Discussing his studies and where they have taken him, John noted that it began with his Diploma in Biblical studies in Zimbabwe. After which he continued on to study at Trinity Academy Pietermartzburg in South Africa where he graduated with a Diploma in Theology in 2001. “I left Zimbabwe in 2001 for South Africa to pursue my theological studies,” said John while discussing where his study journey has lead him. “I lived in South Africa for 11 years before relocating to Australia 2013. I decided to study at UNE to improve my skills and have now finished.”
While living in South Africa, John continued his learning first with a Bachelor of Theology from the University of Zululand in 2004, a BTH Honors at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2006, and then a Master of Commerce in Leadership in 2009.
With so much expertise it is natural to wonder what field of study John dedicated his PhD to studying. True to his passion for the study of theology, and also his empathic nature, John’s field of research related to social justice from the perspective of the church/contextual theology.
“I have been studying social justice since I embarked on my academic career at a bachelor’s degree level. My theological background and my passion for justice influenced me. People in Zimbabwe have been denied access to basic amenities such as health, clean water, efficient public transport, jobs, democracy and public participation, which have affected their public life outcomes.”
“I had the most supportive supervisors, they read thoroughly and commented honestly on my scripts. I enjoyed most when I went to the field research because that is where ‘the rubber met the tar’ and I faced the shock of my life with the realities of what was happening.”
A true scholar at heart, when asked what his greatest achievement has been over the course of his learning journey John noted that he is most proud of recently completing PhD, but most of all the knowledge he have amassed along the way. “I have entered into an esteemed team of academics and I can now write my own publications.”
John expanded on this goal of further publications by discussing his plans now that he has completed his PhD. John noted that he is looking forward to embarking on full time collaborative research, consultations, and he hopes to further explore social justice by working with “NGOs that advocate peace and justice.”
Looking back on the studies that have brought him to this point, John has some fantastic advice for those who might be following a similar path of learning:
“PhD is a mammoth task that requires patience and focus. One needs to take up various skills, especially research methodology. Standing on the shoulders of giants is a big step in the right direction – your professors play a pivotal role in advising and challenging your thoughts.”