Social scientist and Vice-Principal: Academic and Research on the Qwaqwa Campus, Prof Pearl Sithole, was appointed by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences for her stellar work in social sciences.
Academicians are appointed by the Pope on the basis of their competencies in the social sciences and their moral integrity.
Prof Sithole said she was looking forward to sharing meaning and impact with the world through a space dedicated to the social sciences. “It’s a great honour. I’m feeling really humbled. The social sciences and humanities are a hugely necessary space to make meaning of the world, but for some reason, in the pecking order, they were relegated to a space that is thought of last. This appointment is to a dedicated space – to say, let’s look at issues through that lens.”
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established by Pope John Paul II in 1994 with the aim of promoting the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law, and political science. To achieve its aims, the academy organises conferences and workshops on specific themes, promotes scientific surveys and research, and publishes publications.
Prof Sithole said the academy provides a wonderful way of reminding academicians of the importance of relating science to the real world.
“What I like about it is that it demystifies science. It says, be excellent in your field but be able to converse for impact, be able to come to a forum that worries about specific issues, it still encourages publications and pure science/scientific endeavours, advancements in their field, but sometimes people come together to look at an issue from various angles. For me, it’s such a wonderful way of saying we must remember that we are doing science in order to relate to the world, not just to understand for the sake of understanding,” she said.
The appointment also coincides with Women’s Month, and Prof Sithole said she takes great pride in her womanhood.
“I am a mother and a daughter. I strive to pinpoint problems and offer solutions. I am a social scientist. I’ve made it a mission to study how systems affect people by infusing humanity within the systems. Women have been made to be apologetic about the qualities that define us as women, which we bring especially into leadership. I don’t apologise for my emotions. I don’t apologise for my multitasking abilities; however, I do feel that women are often abused for having these.”
What would you say makes you a UFS woman of quality, impact, and care?
I am the sort of person who strongly believes that your work should speak for itself. I don’t work for accolades. My approach to life is to work genuinely to make a difference, and your work will speak for itself. If you wake up every day to genuinely make a difference, it is enough. You get a lot of satisfaction in life, and you sleep better because you know you have given it your best, and you know that sometimes you can actually see it making a difference.
What advice would you give to the 15-year-old you?
I would say, be true to yourself. At a younger age, you want to chase all sorts of aspirations that look glamorous, which is not a bad thing, because you have to have appetite; but in your appetite for excellence and as someone who lives for a purpose, be true to yourself. Be able to design a life that aspires, but at the same time be adaptable to what you discover your strengths to be.