College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Master’s Graduate Offers Food for Thought Through Research

Master’s Graduate Offers Food for Thought Through Research

With two graduations in the bag, Cameroonian beauty queen, Ms Joan Akob, has no plans of slowing down.

With a Master’s degree in Dietetics now added to her long enviable list of accolades, she has high aspirations; now firmly setting her sights set on pursuing a PhD.

She is currently doing her first-year community service, after which she plans to open her own dietetics practice either as a clinical or corporate dietician. Once she has secured practical work experience, a PhD it is!

‘I intend to give back to my nation, Africa and if possible, and the wider world through the knowledge I have gained,’ she said. Akob’s Master’s study therefore focused on the contribution of caregiver-related factors to the underlying causes of malnutrition in selected children’s homes in Pietermaritzburg and Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal. The results revealed an absence of important food groups high in micronutrients in the selected children’s diets, including vitamin A rich fruits, organ meats and fish.

The study also revealed that proliferation in children’s homes is putting a strain on their ability to sufficiently provide for all the basic needs of the children under their care, hence support from the government is necessary. She believes that registered children’s homes should be eligible for resources such as financial support, social grants, subsidised food costs and subsidised school fees and that government should also increase efforts in building more children’s homes to accommodate the increasing number of orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa.

Akob’s passion for children, specifically orphan-care, has seen her spending many years volunteering in various children’s homes. Her desire to see these children impacted positively is what motivated her to pursue her master’s research in dietetics.

When asked why she chose UKZN as the university to pursue her studies, here’s what Joan had to say, ‘UKZN is amongst the top research universities in Africa and as a Cameroonian national, it was crucial that I chose to study in an institution that welcomed a wide range of international students. The Human Nutrition and Dietetics Department also has all the resources required to kick off and excel in a career in dietetics,’ she said.

She thanked her supervisors, Dr Suna Kassier and Professor Frederick Veldaman, for challenging her to always do her best as well as their unwavering support.

Words: Swastika Maney 

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal