Busiswe Nkala

busi nkala-thumb“Doing work with adolescents…it determines the future of the country.

“Doing work with adolescents…it determines the future of the country because we’re growing the leadership here. So if they’re managed properly we’ll have the South Africa that we want, that we all dreamed of. But if we lose them in the scourge of HIV [and] teenage pregnancy, then we don’t have future leadership.”

- Busiswe Nkala,
Project Director, Adolescents

Busiswe Nkala, RN, BA(SW), MHSc
Project Director, Adolescents

Busiswe (Busi) Nkala knows something about the difficulties of adolescence. At the age of fifteen, she was forced to leave school. Faced with the reality that her family did not have the money to continue paying her school fees, Nkala returned home from her school in the Eastern Cape to help care for her five siblings and to earn the money for her school fees. However, it would be another five years before she was able to resume her studies.

By the time she did, Nkala had earned enough money to pay the remainder of her school fees, and the fees for two of her siblings. “I had to study three times harder than anyone else. And eventually, when December came, I passed.”

Originally trained as a nurse, Nkala continued her studies in social work. It was there that she was first introduced to research. After obtaining her MHSc in bioethics from the University of Toronto, Busi returned to South Africa and joined PHRU. During her time with PHRU, Nkala has been involved in a number of HIV prevention studies and has expertise in the effective establishment of community advisory groups in new research sites; developing, producing and maintaining new tools to guide site development; building capacity through working with project teams; and the identification and training of project staff, community liaison officers, counsellors and field workers.

Today, as PHRU’s Project Director for Adolescents, Busi Nkala spends her time forging partnerships with the department of education, reviewing research protocols, directing outreach and VCT programmes to local high schools, keeping clinic services up and running, and acting as a powerful advocate for Kganya Motsha—PHRU’s dedicated adolescent clinic. Since opening in 2008, the clinic has tested thousands of adolescents. But as Nkala explains, “VCT is [often] only an entry into people’s lives. We go and do VCT and realise there are more issues than HIV for young people.” Teenage pregnancy, sexual violence and poverty are competing priorities for the adolescents that Nkala and her staff serve—and they do their best to help address the range of issues their teens bring to them. “I’ll retire working with adolescents. I love it. One day I’m Sisi, and then I’m Mama, and soon I think I’ll be Granny. I love it here.”

RN, Nursing and Midwifery,
BA(SW), Social Work, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
MHSc, Bioethics, at the University of Toronto, Canada

Awards & Honors
Fogarty International Scholarship

PHRU now offers free medical male circumcision (MMC). MMC is 50 to 60 percent effective at preventing HIV in men.
Read stories about the impact of PHRU's work in our latest report, PHRU's 2010 Review.