As a registered social worker but also a person with a disability, Noreth Muller-Kluits always knew it was her calling to facilitate change and help address the needs of persons with disabilities.
Kluits graduated with a PhD in Social Work during a small ceremony for doctoral graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Monday, 14 December 2020.
Her doctoral research was on the experiences of adults with an acquired physical disability on social work support in a South African context.
According to Kluits, she wanted to give a “voice to persons with disabilities and their families" through her research, as she believes they may not always get the opportunity to do so themselves.
“After graduating as a social worker, I worked in the non-profit disability sector and this, combined with my personal experience as both a person with a disability and having a family member with a disability motivated me to focus my research on disability-related topics," says Kluits.
Kluits grew up in the small town of Riversdale in the Southern Cape. She obtained her Bachelor degree in Social Work in 2011 from SU and completed her Master's in Social Work (cum laude) in 2017.
Despite some challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kluits says it was important for her to complete her studies on time and ensure that the voices of the participants that formed part of the research are heard at the end.
“During the study, I was often overwhelmed by the level of resilience that the participants showed and their willingness to share their story. This reiterated the value of research and important role it plays in initiating change through identifying different needs and challenges," says Kluits.
Kluits also commends the Department of Social Work at SU for the level of support and professional guidance they gave her over the years, which she believes played a huge role in her achieving her dreams of obtaining her PhD.
“I am very grateful to have had my professional and research training at SU. The vast knowledge and expertise shared with me over the years from my supervisor and other key role players at the University have been invaluable and have made a tremendous impact on my professional development.
“Hard work and perseverance can make all the difference in reaching your goals, but you need to believe in it as well and be surrounded by others who will support you in this. I want to work towards contributing to the disability sector further through research and advocacy to facilitate change that address the needs of persons with disabilities and their families in communities," says Kluits.
To find out more about Kluits' PhD research, click here to listen to her podcast interview on Stellenbosch University’s Podcast show talks@stellenboschuni.