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Student (25) with cerebral palsy graduates with Honors degree, researching the history of the koeksister

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A 25-year-old University of Pretoria (UP) student did not let a disorder affecting his movement, typing accuracy and speed of communicating, hinder his desire to graduate.

Rudolph Boraine graduated cum laude recently, with a Bachelor of Social Science (Hons) degree in History, after having completed a research report on the history of the “koeksister”, which is a well-loved South African confectionery.

Boraine lives with cerebral palsy, affecting the physical functioning of his entire body.

He graduated cum laude for the second time and was also part of the team that was awarded first prize in the History Honours Archive Research Project, which formed part of the course’s core modules.

He also received the award for the best second-year History student in 2019 and is currently furthering his studies in Psychology.

“It is an honour for me to graduate from this remarkable institution for the second time,” said Boraine.

“My journey to graduation at honours level was challenging. I needed to make a lot of adjustments such as extending the time that I had at my disposal to write my research report as well as taking extra time to complete some assignments.”

Boraine said he was given valuable support throughout his studies, from a facilitator who helped him to get around campus as well as from UP’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies.

“The staff were always accommodating, kind, compassionate and understanding,” he said.

“I realised that anything can be achieved with hard work, despite any physical challenges that you may have. If you remain an optimistic student with a clear set of goals, you can achieve anything.”

Boraine further encouraged other students with disabilities to never give up and allow their state to withhold them from success.

“Research possibilities do not have to be hampered by physical challenges.

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“My advice to students living with a disability who wish to achieve academic success is to work hard and to stay committed to their goals. Remember, with the right support and mindset, everything is possible.”

UP spokesperson Primarashni Gower said Boraine’s Honours research report The koeksister: A twisted history? looked into the sweet treat’s origins and compared the koeksister of Dutch/Afrikaans origin to the koesister of Cape Malay origin.

“Using a comparative methodology, he researched the origins of both versions of the koeksister using secondary sources, as well as recipe books as a form of primary research or alternate archive.”

Gower said Boraine’s comparison considered both the similarities and differences in nomenclature, geographic origins, ingredients, preparation processes, physical shapes, serving traditions as well as the community context of the two food items.

She explained that while the ingredients for both treats were fairly similar, the shape of the two items was remarkably different.

“The koeksister is plaited, while the koesister is oblong. Furthermore, the Afrikaans version is regarded primarily as a small cake and is served as a confectionary item, while the Cape Malay version has multiple serving options, including as a sweet treat, breakfast item and during religious festivals.”

Boraine’s supervisor, Professor Karen Harris said she was impressed by the amount of research that Boraine had undertaken to develop an appropriate hypothesis and present a well-balanced discussion.

“He made excellent use of a range of sources and did extensive research using both academic and alternate sources to substantiate this contested history,” Harris said.

“The amount of work that the student has put into this research report is certainly commendable.

“A great strength was the range of sources consulted in assembling this work, which demonstrated an openness to combining the findings of significant mainstream historical scholarship with more popular and less conventional material.”

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