Introducing UFH’s most senior PhD graduate, Dr Skota-Dayile, age 70

Read time: 4 mins


Dr Nomvuyo Pretty Skota-Dayile from Mdantsane Township in the Eastern Cape is the University of Fort Hare 2023 May Graduation’s most senior PhD graduate at age 70.

Dr Skota-Dayile graduated with a PhD in Education, proving that age should be no barrier to fulfilling dreams. 

It took her nine years – stalling along the way – to complete her doctoral degree, a journey she proudly proclaims to have no regrets undertaking. While mindful of skeptical views about studying at an advanced age, Dr Skota-Dayile says studying and learning have no age limit and should always be encouraged.  

“I started my PhD journey in 2014 and have no regrets about my decision.”  After numerous delays and five supervisors later, she graduated on Thursday, 18 May, during the Faculty of Education’s morning graduation session.

Supervised by Dr Sipho Moses Mkhomi, she titled her thesis: “Parents’ Views of their 0-4-year-old Children’s Sociocultural Development at Home while in ECD Centres/Preschools: Implications for Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy,” is a qualitative study which investigated parents’ views of their 0–4-year-old children’s sociocultural development.

She conducted her study in four ECD centres in the East London district of the Eastern Cape province, in South Africa. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory served as a theoretical framework, and a case study, located within the interpretivist paradigm, was employed.

Fourteen parents, aged between 25 and 80, were purposively sampled, while semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data, which were subsequently analysed using a thematic approach.

The key findings revealed, with the introduction of such centres, social and African cultural values were weakened, resulting in the fragmented knowledge of the black South African children under study, and a lack of language proficiency which denied them the chance of achieving a fair balance in terms of knowledge acquisition.

The findings of her study have prompted calls for greater consciousness and commitment on the part of South African ECD policymakers and professionals, to capacitate young children to grow and thrive in a multicultural, multilingual society, rather than treating them as one ‘universal English child’.

Dr Skota-Dayile thus advocates for a conscious partnership between the ECD sector and families, to foster children’s healthy growth, along with their cultural, emotional and cognitive development.

She intends to use her doctoral study to work with ECD centres, to fulfill the Education 2008 call for children’s sociocultural development, through her company BuyisiAfrica.

After matriculating, Dr Skota-Dayile completed a diploma in Medical Technology, specialising in clinical pathology, thereafter, she worked as a medical technologist for a total of 13 years, during which she did in-service training at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital and worked at Edendale Hospital.

According to her, changed careers when she realised medical technology did not match her inquiring mind, and activist nature.  She moved to Cape Town in the mid-80s and registered with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) for an Advanced Diploma for Educators of Adults, where she also did her Honours and Masters degrees, and later became a lecturer for 10 years and worked as a Director for Women’s Hope Education and Training (WHEAT Trust) in Cape Town.     

Although fulfilling, Dr Skota-Dayile says her PhD journey was not one without hurdles. “Among the many difficulties I faced during my PhD include having no steady source of income. I relied on my children who made sacrifices to fulfill my dream. Further hurdles came in the form of ill-health, undergoing two surgical operations and hospitalisation in 2016.”

“My study became the only solace, and I sought ways to protect it. I enjoyed doing this study at UFH, hence it was difficult for me to give it up even when the circumstances were dire. I met Dr. Sipho Mkhomi in November 2021 and it is through him that I graduate this May. I feel exhausted, yet proud of myself for not giving up,” said Skota-Dayile. 

She highlights the help of Prof. Okeke, Dr. Drake, Dr. Mkhomi and Dr. Makeleni for holding her hand along the way.

Her message to the youth is that it is never a waste of time or inappropriate to study. 

“When the opportunity to study presents itself, go for it and commit yourself because in the end, you are doing it for yourself,” she said.