From domestic to doctorate: Dr Venicia McGhie's story signifies the power of learning and development

Her hard work allowed her to go from being a domestic worker to acquiring her PhD.

The story of Dr Venicia McGhie, who came from humble beginnings as a domestic worker to achieving her PhD in Education from Stellenbosch University, is evidence of what can be achieved through learning and development. Raised in Potchefstroom, Vanicia’s parents died when she was in Grade 10, forcing her to drop out of school and find work as a domestic worker in order to support her family.

Years later, she has now been appointed as an associate professor within the Economic and Management Sciences faculty at the University of Western Cape (UWC).

“I (have) worked very hard and I am grateful that senior management recognised my efforts. I am hoping to use this position to empower other colleagues, students and the broader community,” says Venicia about her appointment.

After being a domestic worker, she went on to work in a shoe factory and as a taxi driver to supplement her income. In December 1985, she left her abusive husband and took her two children along with her as she went in search of a better life in the Western Cape Province, even though she did not know anyone nor have a job there. She joined UWC in September 1988 as a data-capturing clerk in the Student Admin Offices and concurrently continued her studies, completing a BA, majoring in Linguistics, English and IsiXhosa for second language speakers.

“As a single mother raising two children, I was determined to better myself. I knew God had a greater plan for me, and I just had to find my part in it,” she says.

Still working at UWC, she moved on to do her masters’ degree, and then decided to do a Higher Diploma in Education as well, to help her move to the other side of the lectern.

“Being a good teacher is not something that comes automatically. I wanted to know all about the various teaching philosophies and ways of reaching students and getting information across,” she says.

Venicia’s story shows what a person that is willing to grow and improve themselves can achieve. Undoubtedly, HR had a significant role to play in her progression from being a data-capturing student to a professor with a doctorate.