Women's Month 2023: Dr Ayanda Pamella Deliwe

Women’s Month 2023: Dr Ayanda Pamella Deliwe

August is Women’s Month, and this year the National Research Foundation (NRF) is celebrating the remarkable contributions that have been made by women researchers for the betterment of humanity. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us.

Dr Ayanda Pamella Deliwe is the Head of the Business Management Department and a Senior Lecturer at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). She is currently an NRF Thuthukagrantholder.

What impact did the NRF have on your studies/career?

I received NRF Thuthuka funding under the Post-PhD Track from 2022-2024. The main reason I applied for this funding was to improve my research outputs as an emerging researcher to put myself in a position to be able to apply for the Associate Professor promotion. Furthermore, I wanted to contribute to my institution’s research outputs so it can move up in the universities rankings whilst ensuring my research also contributes to the communities at large.

Since receiving the funding, I have successfully supervised two Honours students to completion who were researching one of my Thuthuka-funded research objectives. Additionally, in 2022, our work-in-progress paper, which I am currently working on with my mentee who is an emerging researcher, was presented at an international conference in Cape Town.

In 2023, I am currently supervising two Master’s students who are also working on one of the research objectives funded by the Thuthuka grant. Ethics approval has been obtained and I will be starting with the data collection which will lead to two articles being published in an accredited journal. I am also working with another emerging researcher who is my mentee on a research paper that was accepted to be presented at the digiTAL 2023 Fourth International Conference on Teaching and Learning in Digital Age. The mentee will be traveling to Cape Town to present the paper on our behalf.

One of the outputs is to present my research results to previously disadvantaged universities where my team will be sharing the best practices within education during the Fourth Industrial Revolution period. This project will take place towards the end of 2023.

The Thuthuka funding will not only assist me to improve my research outputs but also assist the two emerging researchers that I am mentoring to improve their research capabilities.

What has been your study/career journey?

I started studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where I completed a BCom Degree in Business Management and Information Systems and Technology. I then started working for a Government department but I realised that if I wanted to grow within any organisation I would need to study further because just having a degree was not enough. I decided to enrol at UNISA where I completed my Honours in Business Management. I felt that it still was not enough; I wanted more for myself. I went to WITS University to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Management with a focus on security as it was a field that I was working in, and I returned to the University of KwaZulu-Natal where I completed my Master’s degree.

Enrolling for a PhD was never a dream of mine and I never even thought about it until I was doing my Master’s. I met fellow students who were also enrolled in the same programme as I was and they played a huge role in convincing me it was the right thing to do. I was eventually convinced and that is how I found myself enrolled for a PhD.

Whilst doing my PhD, I was searching for a job because the job that I was doing at the time was not satisfying me anymore. I needed a job that was going to be a better fit for my skills. Somehow, I ended up in academia as a lecturer. I always say academia chose me and not the other way around but I am glad it did because I have never felt more at home than I do currently in an academic environment. God has been great to me because not only did I get a promotion to be a senior lecturer within a few years of joining Nelson Mandela University, I was also appointed the Head of the Business Department which is my current role.

What is your research focus on/what is your area of expertise?

The research that is funded by NRF is within the field of Education, more specifically the best practices for higher education institutions during the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. The research looks at how online learning and the use of online platforms can assist higher education institutions to improve and provide quality education to their customers/students and how they can gain a competitive advantage.

Some of my work can viewed below.


  • The Conceptualisation of e-Learning at the Public Sector. Link
  • The Use of Learner Management System (MOODLE) in Promoting Teaching and Learning. Link
  • Factors Essential for Successful and Sustainable e-Learning. Link
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Higher Education in Africa: A systematic review and implications. Link


  • Digital Learning Africa Summit 2022. Link

Why is your research/work important?

Firstly, the research that I am engaged in is important as it will contribute to higher education institutions’ quest to remain competitive. This is specifically important since the use of the internet has led to there being no borders, and this has made the competition between higher education institutions not only national but also international.

Secondly, my research is important in ensuring that quality education is provided to students whilst using online platforms but without leaving any student behind. Therefore, the research explores how emerging technologies can be utilised to their full capacity by every student regardless of their background.

Lastly, there is a gap between the higher education institutions and the graduates that are needed in the industry. The research looks at how we can close that gap so that higher education institutions can provide the industry with graduates who meet their requirements

There is still a long way to go to truly achieve equity and a sense of belonging for women, be it within the research community or society in general. How do you envision yourself contributing to this space?

As a woman who is an emerging researcher, I have won the faculty Emerging Researcher Award based on research conducted in 2021. This award was not just about me but it gave hope and motivated other emerging researchers within our faculty as they could see that a Black woman can excel in research.

I am also actively involved in mentoring other emerging researchers where we supervise Master’s students together. Additionally, I am actively involved in assisting the emerging researchers in our department to publish papers, present their papers at conferences, and obtain funding. I have several mentees who have papers accepted to be presented at conferences and who will be presenting their papers in 2023.

I plan to carry on with mentoring younger academics through the co-supervision of Master’s students, and to carry on with research and ad hoc projects that will improve my research outputs and that will have a positive impact on women and society.

To me, being a successful researcher means being able to uplift others in the process and ensuring that I do not leave anyone behind, and it is also about making a significant contribution to the communities.

What advice do you have for girls who are interested in STEM-related careers?

STEM education is very important, especially during these times as there is still a shortage of women within the field. The biggest challenge is that scholars are instilled with fear at a high school level where they are made to believe that pure maths is difficult, resulting in most scholars choosing to do maths literacy which limits them when they want to venture into STEM-related careers.

We must educate scholars, especially girls, at an early stage before they choose their subjects so they can be aware of what the requirements are if they want a career that is STEM-related and cultivate an interest in STEM education for girls.

To the girls who are interested in STEM-related careers, never give up on what you are passionate about. There will be people who might try to convince you otherwise by instilling fear of pursuing a STEM-related career by highlighting how hard it is to get into a STEM-related programme. Do not be discouraged, there is nothing that you cannot do if you put your mind to it. If there are women who are in STEM-related careers, what will stop you? What makes you different from them? If there is a person out there who has done it before, so can you.

This work is licenced under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 ZA) license. Please view the terms for republishing here.

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