Teaching students to grasp how the theory they are learning in class is practically applied in the real world is a vocation that School of Accounting, Economics and Finance academics and Master in Accountancy graduates, Ms Hlengiwe Ndlela, Ms Kerry-Lee Gurr, Ms Shazia Essa and Ms Salma Vanker, remain passionate about.
As a Chartered Accountant and registered Auditor, Ndlela shares her passion for teaching auditing with community outreach work. Raised in Inanda, Durban, by a single mother who worked as a domestic worker, Ndlela worked hard to secure a bursary from Ernst & Young Inc. to pursue her BCom Accounting degree at UKZN. While doing her second-year, she fell pregnant with her daughter but refused to drop out. Her determination would also carry her through her Honours studies after three attempts. ‘Today I am graduating with my Masters, which I never thought I would even pursue when I was struggling with my Honours seven years ago. I strongly believe in lifelong learning and have a passion in teaching others,’ said Ndlela who is the Co-founder of the 1Woman1Girl Mentorship Program, member of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (ABASA), an Audit Committee Member of a Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal amongst many others she also runs a programme that is designed to support African Students currently pursuing their CTA / Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting.
Examining the Effects of Audit Opinion on Municipalities’ Operations: A Case of Mpofana Local Municipality was the title of Ndlela’s dissertation. Supervised by Professor Mabutho Sibanda, the study was based on a portion of governance in the municipal space and examined the effect of an audit opinion on how the municipality is run, the response or action plans to address audit findings and the service delivery.
As a Financial Lecturer, Gurr enjoys teaching future Chartered Accountants. Titled An Exploration of the Effect of Mergers and Acquisitions on Long-run Value Creation of Companies Within South Africa, Gurr’s thesis was supervised by Mr Leo Deodutt. ‘This enables me to offer a quality service to the students. As an academic, it is vital to constantly expand one’s knowledge, and as such, a Master’s degree was the next logical step in my transformation,’ said Gurr.
While attaining this qualification meant a lot of sacrifices for Gurr, the benefits are worth it. ‘I had to sacrifice time with my family as well as my wedding plans. It was very difficult at times to juggle work and study commitments but I managed to stay passionate through my support system and fellow colleagues who were also going through various phases of their own research. The plan is to start gathering my thoughts and gear up towards a PhD, the ultimate goal for an academic,’ said Gurr.
IFRSs for SMEs: An Empirical Study of the KwaZulu-Natal SME Sector was the title of Essa’s dissertation which was supervised by Dr Rajendra Rajaram. The study aims to empower the SME sector with financial reporting skills to assist entrepreneurs. ‘It was not difficult to stay interested about my topic as I am extremely passionate about the SME sector and initiatives that will help grow and sustain this sector. In South Africa, SMEs contribute significantly to our GDP levels and to reduce unemployment and it is paramount that they receive the necessary support to help them succeed,’ said Essa.
Balancing her studies with two children under the age of five; together with the assignments and exams from her Master’s coursework was a daunting task which Essa however conquered and extends a big salute to Rajaram, for always motivating and believing in her, even on days when she didn’t believe in herself.
‘There were days, where I would pitch up to lectures with baby cereal in my hair, or not had slept for days before an exam because my babies would have taken turns getting sick. I remember writing paragraphs of my research with my two year old sitting on my lap. Midway I was ready to give up, I sat in tears telling my mum “I can’t do this, I’m going to deregister.” My four year old was listening to this and echoed to me what I always tell them “You have to try your best mum. You won’t know until you try”. I then realised that I had two little people looking up at me, and I needed to set a good example and make this happen. I could not have done it without God’s grace and a strong support system – which I am extremely grateful for. I have my eye on that red PhD coat, fingers crossed,’ said Essa.
Adoption of Islamic Banking by Muslim Accountants and Lawyers in KwaZulu-Natal was the title of Vanker’s dissertation. The study was supervised by Mr Leo Deodutt and provided insight into the need for a collaboration between various stakeholders to navigate challenges faced and find solutions to implement Islamic Banking in the ever-complex and dynamic business environment whilst still adhering to the principles of Islam.
‘I was awakened to the ideological and practical richness and relevance of expanding this niche market of Islamic Banking. Looking back at this achievement, I hope to inspire and motivate my own students to achieve their dreams,’ added Vanker.
Words: Thandiwe Jumo
Photograph: Rogan Ward