25/04/2018 11:30 SAST | Updated 25/04/2018 11:30 SAST

71-Year-Old UKZN Graduate: '10 Years Of Struggle – It Was Worth Every Minute'

Dr Elizabeth Martiny has graduated with a PhD in Religion and Theology, and says it wasn't easy.

Thuli Dlamini

We all have our own Everest to climb — and success is always connected with taking action, which is exactly what 71-year-old Dr Elizabeth Martiny did.

Martiny was hooded by University of KwaZulu-Natal [UKZN] registrar Simon Mokoena at a graduation ceremony held at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.

Speaking to HuffPost, Martiny said she was ecstatic that it was all finally over – after it took her a decade to finish her qualification.

Her life journey has been fraught with difficulty, beginning when she contracted polio as a child.

"At this stage of my life, I think a lot about my life — and therefore my dissertation topic was about the different areas and things I am interested in. I wanted to put them all together, all the strengths of my life — because I am a woman who believes in gender equality, and I am physically disabled and interested in theology and psychology," she said.

That is why, she says, her dissertation investigated the images of God, and the disability experiences of physically challenged women, from the perspectives of theology and analytical psychology.

Sighing, she said it wasn't an easy journey for her, and she had to come across a lot of challenges

Thuli Dlamini

"One of the challenges was actually finding the time, because I work full time – therefore I had to find the time to do the research, which required me to do a whole lot of interviews, which in turn I had to transcribe."

Most importantly, she says, she had to adopt discipline — even if it meant sacrificing family time.

"For 10 years, I had to have strong discipline. I had to set myself goals and tell myself that every week I had to accomplish so much — and perseverance was key for all of that to be successful.

"I had to sacrifice seeing my family on certain occasions, and had to say to myself 'No you have to wait until you've completed a,b,c... Sometimes it became very sad, because I knew that I was sacrificing personal time, but everybody understood, and they were patient and supportive."

Martiny acknowledged her friends and her two supervisors who gave her professional advice and supported her throughout her academic journey.

"I work full-time, and because I had not been in university for a long time before deciding to do my PhD, it took me 10 years to complete it. Throughout the 10 years, I had to learn academic ways of writing, academic methodology and language etc."

"I already use my academics from before, I work as a therapist and have run a practice. But with this dissertation, I am going to find ways of helping people with disabilities," Martiny added.

Martiny believes very strongly and positively in education, because she feels it helps people to think analytically and also gives them an opportunity to meet different people in prospective fields of study.

She has advised adults to further their studies and not be intimidated by their commitments.

"It doesn't make any difference what stage of life you are in, there is always creativity and something new can happen. You can have a dream even when you're older."

"I really encourage adults to study, because in the end, it becomes worth it. You can have a dream even when you're older — and you learn a whole lot, including discipline. Then you have something very worthwhile to offer to society."

Martiny says she thinks South Africa needs more people, especially women, to study higher degrees, so that the next generation can know that education is key.

"I am going to be taking almost three weeks with my family to go on holiday, and to have a rest from all the stress," she said.

UKZN corporate relations acting executive director Normah Zondo said the university was happy for Martiny's achievement, and described her as a role model for all young people to realise the importance of education.

Zondo added that lifelong learning is encouraged for one's professional and academic development and knowledge creation.

"On behalf of UKZN, we are proud of Dr Elizabeth Martiny's achievement — to obtain the highest qualification from the university at her age, and for elevating the status of UKZN to a higher level," Zondo said.

Halala, Elizabeth!