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Qualified Chartered Accountant Mlungisi Hlongwane shares his story and encourages us this exam season

A humble, respectful and well-mannered gentleman, Mlungisi Hlongwane is a philanthropist, an entrepreneur and a social transformation agent. Mlungisi hails from a deep rural area called Bergville in Kwazulu Natal. The place boasts the infamous Drankensberg Mountains – one of the worlds heritage sites. He was raised by his grandmother who was and still is an entrepreneur in her own right. She ran a spaza shop, she was also quite big in farming in the area and from a very young age Mlungisi assisted her at the spaza shop and in the fields. The passion for entrepreneurship and philanthropy grew from then.

 

Having completed both SAICA Initial Test of Competence (ITC) and Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), Mlungisi is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He is currently pursuing his Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship with the University of Pretoria under the faculty of Economic and Management Sciences – Department of Business Studies. He obtained his Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal under Faculty of Law and Management Sciences and obtained his Postgraduate Diploma in Accountancy (Certificate of Theory in Accounting) with University of South Africa (UNISA) under the College of Economics and Management Sciences – CAS Department.

 

Mlungisi’s strong will to succeed has earned him several accolades. He was recently nominated for the SAICA Top 35 under 35 Competition 2018 and won the public vote of the same competition. He was also selected to be a part of the Top 100 Africa’s Brightest Young Minds in 2017. Mlungisi was voted as the best performer for the PFMA audits of the Gauteng Provincial Government Departments and Public Entities in 2015 at the Auditor General of South Africa. He was part of the Top 25 CTA students in the Auditor General of South Africa and formed part of the organised Boot Camp for the preparation of 2014 UNISA Exams.

 

This hard-working and well achieved young man has the world chasing him with opportunities, read his story below to see how he made it through university:

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into the CA field?

 

It must be the realization of the value and the importance that the CA(SA) profession has. I have a passion to contribute to this profession that has taught me a lot throughout the journey to becoming a CA and beyond qualification. This combined with my curious personality, I always want to learn and explore new things through research and being able to package it for the next person to understand it better so that they derive value out of it. Academia allows me to do this with ease. In addition to this, I believe that Academia is my calling. It allows me to empower the next person to realize their dreams and this is to the betterment of the families, societies and eventually the world. When the next person is empowered, then I am fulfilled.

 

  1. Have you always known you wanted to study towards becoming a CA?

 

Because of my background i.e. entrepreneurial background, I always knew that I had to pursue a career related to finance. I always wanted to understand how finances worked and to help my grandmother with the finances in her businesses. I must however, admit that I never knew anything about Chartered Accountancy at that point. It was through doing research that I found out that the perfect qualification for my intended career would be to become a Chartered Accountant. I started following and learning more about the very few people in my area who were Chartered Accountants. I made it a point that I ask them for guidance until I eventually attained the designation.

 

 

  1. Do you think it’s possible for someone to be in the wrong field of study?

 

I believe anyone who does not follow his passion or calling is in the wrong field. I have made it my mission to offer career guidance to young people and make sure that they choose the careers that are more aligned with their passion. I have seen that those who do something that they like tend to do it best.

 

  1. What would you say to that person who is experiencing those depressing thoughts because they feel they are in the wrong field of study bearing in mind exams are still in progress? How would you motivate them?

 

It is often tempting for one to feel like they are in the wrong field of study whereas the natural challenge and anxiety that comes with the exams. One would need to first be clear that the feeling is genuinely because they are really not passionate about the course. However, I believe one must always remember the reason why they started something. That normally provides them with the motivation to weather the storm. If they want it bad enough, they will find a way to make it work. I also encourage working in groups of common interest.

 

  1. There is no smooth academic journey, what are some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

The first biggest obstacle was coming from the rural schools and often the English language becomes a barrier that also works against self-confidence. Adjusting to the university where English is the teaching language became a challenge. I have learnt throughout my academic journey that the best way to overcome any challenge related to academics is to understand the type of a person you are. This will allow you to come up with the strategies that work best for you and not copy other people’s way of doing things. An example would be to understand whether you are someone who learns better on their own or in a group set-up, are you a person who learns better using visuals, someone who is able to memorize something for a longer period. That allowed me to understand that I am a slow reader and therefore I allocated more time in my studies. The other challenge I faced was when I did my Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting part-time. It is extremely challenging to balance work with studies. This one requires discipline, focus and lot of sacrifices. I had to sacrifice my social life but, in the end, it was all worth it. Here is the last one, you need to want it bad enough for you to be able to soldier on and overcome the challenges. I was never afraid to ask for assistance when I was struggling. This speaks to the right associations.

 

  1. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway? If you feel it limited you in anyway, how did you move past those boundaries?

 

It is true that people who come from disadvantaged background start from the back foot, however this is by no way an indication of the impossibility to attain one’s academic goal. I have mentioned the communication barrier i.e. English language but that can also be overcome. The lack of appropriate mentorship and guidance during the schooling days had an effect as well. I feel that if there was appropriate guidance and exposure to certain information, I would have navigated much easier. There were and still are no information centres in our community to expose pupils to more information about the careers and just to prepare them for the next stages of their life.  This remains one of the biggest differences between the children from disadvantaged backgrounds and the rest. By the way, it is not only the children that do not have access to information but also the parents, which magnifies the problem. The determination to succeed and not being willing to ever give up is what helped me move past these boundaries.

 

  1. There are students who didn’t get DP (minimum entry requirement to be able to write an exam) for some of their modules. They are feeling discouraged. How would you advise them in this exam season?

 

I am firm believer in self-introspection. I must admit that I have never been in the same situation before but I have experienced failure in my academic life and in life in general. I would encourage the student to allow for the process of acceptance, which is normally very hard. They are probably thinking about the people they have let down e.g. parents, themselves and the standards they might set for themselves, friends and their communities even. We should never forget that making it to tertiary is still a privilege to many and thus it puts some students under pressure because they become ‘role models’ in their communities and have to be seen as successful. When one finds themselves in this situation, they need to get through the stage of acceptance and when that has happened they need to do self-introspection and understand what went wrong. After they have diagnosed a problem, they need to come up with a strategy to rectify what would have gone wrong. Importantly, they must rid themselves of the pressures, internally and externally, as that is not going to help them in any way.

 

  1. Time management is imperative in a student’s life. How did you manage your time between exams? Especially, if they were close to each other.

 

As soon as I receive my exam timetable, I would draw my exam preparation timetable and plan how I am going to approach my studies. This would require one to look at the time available and the activities that they have to do, prioritize the most important ones and sacrifice some activities that are not that important. Allocate more resources to the subjects that are either complex or have more volume of work. Importantly, one needs to be disciplined and stick to the timetable.

 

  1. Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to success. How did you get over the fear of asking for help when you didn’t understand the work you were studying?

 

One needs to always gage, which one is more valuable between fear and getting help. There were instances where I would fear asking for help but after asking myself the above question. One hundred percent of the time, I would find that asking for help is more valuable. I have learnt that nothing in life is guaranteed and therefore we would always be faced with uncertainty that we have to respond to. Fearing to ask is one example because you fear how you will be received by the next person. I have learnt to always be prepared to get either favourable or unfavourable responses. Always ask for help when you are unclear about something.

 

  1. Quotes are motivation for a lot of students. Do you have any quote which has kept you going in your journey? And who is it by?

 

I live by this quote from the late John Lennon “In the end, it will be ok. If it is not ok, then it is not the end”. The other one is by Henry Ford “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right”.

 

  1. In summary, what words would you like to extend to students writing exams?

Always ask yourself, how bad do you want to pass this exam. If you want it bad enough, you will make it happen. Always keep a positive mindset and avoid things that demotivate or discourage you. Set goals, strategize (plan) and go for a kill.

 

Thank you for your responses Mlungisi. Your story of humble beginnings is so encouraging. All the best to the students still writing. You almost there, keep going. #YoungAcademics

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Nelson Mandela University graduate, Sabelwa Matikinca shares her story of how to rise after failure

Sabelwa Matikinca grew up in a family of 4 in Port Elizabeth. She was raised by both her parents. In 2017, she completed her BCom Rationum Law through Nelson Mandela University. She recently  acquired a NDiploma in Cost and Management Accounting through CIMA : Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Currently, she is pursuing a post-graduate diploma in Cost and Management Accounting. This amazing young woman was one of the first group of Allan Gray Scholars to be selected in 2008. She says to us,” I was one of 12 throughout South Africa at the time”.  A couple of years later, she then was also selected for the university fellowship. Sabelwa is passionate about the young people of the country and believes that one of the greatest tools we can use to liberate ourselves is education and entrepreneurship. She says her ability to speak things which are not yet a reality into existence and using positive affirmations, have been key to her rise.

Read her story of resilience below:

 

  1. You’ve been so fortunate to receive such a great scholarship (Allan Gray) to fund your education. What does education mean to you?

 

Education to me means learning. It means growth. It means freedom and liberty. Education can never be confined to the seats within the classroom or lecture hall, education happens everywhere where people are not only willing to stretch theory mind but are willing to listen. It’s true that when we speak we share what we already know but when we listen we gain new knowledge.

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into the field you have chosen?

 

In a nutshell, I have always dreamed of changing the fields of both accounting or finance and law as we know them today. Firstly, one of my missions is removing this unsaid fallacy that South Africa is a subordinate to the rest of the world in the field of finance. Law then speaks to the humanitarian in me. I love people. I believe people are our countries greatest asset and so any injustice a country does unto it’s people is the biggest crime and in fact is the highest form of self-harm, if not self-hatred.

 

  1. Your thought process for your choice of study seems so well thought-out. Do you think it’s possible for someone to be in the wrong field of study?

 

If you are miserable and find no fulfilment you are definitely in the wrong career. The minute you no longer have a why or the vision becomes blurry then you are doing something wrong.

 

  1. What would you say to that person who is experiencing those depressing thoughts because they feel they are in the wrong field of study bearing in mind exams are in process? How would you motivate them?

 

I always encourage people who are having trouble to finish what they have started. Nothing in life is easy and when the going gets tough, that’s when you need to toughen up. Finish what you have started, thereafter ask yourself where you went wrong and reflect on how to make a better career choice or change.

 

  1. There is no smooth academic journey, what are some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

 

Yhoooo. Where do I even begin? In 2016 I failed for the first time in my life. It was horrible. I did not know how to deal with failure. I needed to redefine myself. I needed to love myself and be kind to myself. So, after failing a year module I needed to repeat the module and add another year at university. My 4-year degree now had to be extended to 5 years. It was devastating to not complete my degree in record time. I however now know that even though it was painful it was essential to my journey. I can do anything I put my mind to now. Defeat is just not an option for me.

 

  1. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway? If you feel it limited you in anyway, how did you move past those boundaries?

 

I am a testimony that “umthi ugotywa usemncinane” a tree is bent/shaped while it is still small so it grows holding that shape it has been bent into. Growing up I did two things, go to church and school. My number one priority was school. We never watched TV during the week nor did we play outside. I don’t even recall having friends where I grew up, because I grew up “in the house”. I used to walk home and immediately I took of my school uniform and did my homework. By the time my parents got home I was done with all my homework. We never had a helper and so I did my homework on my own, I was being taught responsibility and discipline. My parents never used to beg me to study I just knew it’s something I have to do and I have to do it well.  I have always been an achiever so the desire to achieve pushed and propelled me to a road of excellence.

 

  1. There are students who didn’t get DP (entry requirement to be able to write an exam) for some of their modules. They are feeling discouraged. How would you advise them in this exam season?

 

To be honest my message is fight! Fight, fight and fight. If it’s impossible to get into that exam room this year ensure that you are there next year. Change your strategy because the reality is that you are doing something wrong or you are not doing enough. Ask others how they are tackling the module. Speak to both people who have passed and those who are repeating the module. From those who have passed you are getting hints of what to do; from those who have failed you are getting advice on what to avoid. Both are equally helpful! Remember it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up which matters most.

 

  1. Time management is imperative in a student’s life. How did you manage your time between exams?

 

Priorities is the best toolkit to master time management. Focus on what matters now. Forget everything else, you will focus on it after the exam period. Remember to give your mind breaks so you remain 150% effective during those study sessions and eat brain foods with lots of water.

 

  1. Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to success. How did you get over the fear of asking for help when you didn’t understand the work you were studying?

What you don’t understand in secret will be exposed in public! The amount of work you know you struggling with will only get exaggerated in the exam room, because your results will reflect that. My advice consult with your lecturer privately if you are unsure of something. I also encourage asking a friend, because if both of you don’t know you have someone to consult together with.

 

  1. Quotes are motivation for a lot of students. Do you have any quote which has kept you going in your journey? And who is it by?

 

“Faith without works is dead” – The book of James 2:14, Bible

 

  1. How did you get over procrastination and exam stress?

 

Nike: JUST DO IT

 

  1. In summary, what words would you like to extend to students writing exams?

 

All the best. Give it your all. Your hard work will be rewarded! Don’t forget to keep the end goal in mind. It’s very nice walking on that stage or seeing your name on that list (hahaha).

 

Sabelwa Matikinca, BCom Rationum Law Graduate at Nelson Mandela University

 

Thank you Sabelwa for never giving up and sharing your experience with us. We can’t wait to see you soar. All the best to all the students still writing. We are rooting for you. Work hard and focus. December is around the corner 😊.

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UCT Masters student, Best Khosa shares his story and gives some exam tips for this season

Best Khosa was born and raised in Limpopo, Ngove village just outside Giyani. He was raised by his mom and grandmother. He is the eldest of 4 children at home. His passions lie in mentoring young people to achieve their God-given purpose. Best studied a BSc in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and recently submitted his dissertation for a degree in Master of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering, specializing in Nuclear power also at the University of Cape Town. Currently, he is working for the power utility, Eskom Western Cape as a High Voltage Substation Designer in the distribution division. His most empowering quote comes from Marianne Williamson who says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”. Through hard-work and his ambition, Best has managed to tap into his power in the academic sphere.

 

Read his story and motivation for this exam season:

 

 

  1. What does education mean to you?

 

Education is beyond the technical information in a subject or degree. Education is the training of the mind to think systematically in order to solve human problems but also developing other essential life skills such as communication, time management, resourcefulness, networking, planning, etc. The latter are more dependent on the student, no education institution offers courses for those, one must intentionally decide to develop them.  

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into Engineering?

 

It’s quite a long story. I wanted to do engineering because I wanted to make use of my Maths and Science at school but I also wanted to be part of the individuals who can solve problems in our planet.

 

  1. How does your engineering help you in fulfilling the calling over your life? If you believe in a calling.

Electrical engineering is about problem solving and instills confidence that every problem has a solution. This is what a person needs when mentoring young people. If you can convince your mentees that every problem has a solution, then you are done.

 

  1. Looking back do you feel you studied the right course?

 

100%. I believe that God redirects our path even when we are unaware.

 

  1. Do you think it’s possible for someone to be in the wrong field of study?

 

Not necessarily. I believe that education has more to offer than the technical knowledge of that field. These other skills we develop during our studies are important in helping us deal with life. It is okay to realize your true purpose and the field you are meant to do later, we don’t always figure out everything about our lives early and that is okay.

 

  1. What would you say to that person who is experiencing those depressing thoughts because they feel they are in the wrong field of study bearing in mind exams are around the corner? How would you motivate them?

I would say there are important lessons and other non-technical skills you would have acquired in that “wrong field” up to so far. Finish strong what you are currently faced with, at least this year’s exams as you seek more clarity forward. This is important because it can open more doors for what you believe to be your field if you will change.

 

  1. There is no smooth academic journey, what are some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?

 

A couple of them: language barrier, increased academic load, I did not have accommodation and had financial challenges. I got involved in one of the societies, Student Christian Fellowship which provided a community of students I could do life with and share some of the resources I needed to succeed. I think life is much better when lived in a community. I later got part time employment at the university which solved most of my financial challenges.

 

  1. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway? If you feel it limited you in anyway, how did you move past those boundaries?

 

Definitely. Both in a negative and positive way. On the positive side, my upbringing instilled a sense of endurance in me and I developed the idea that nothing good in life comes easy. When I faced some challenges, this became very helpful. I also developed a positive outlook about interacting with people of diverse cultures which I was not exposed to. This made my learning exciting. On the negative side, the issue of poor resources in both primary and high school meant a gap in learning at varsity level. I often had to put double the amount of effort to be comfortable with my courses.  

 

  1. There are students who didn’t get DP (entry requirement to be able to write an exam) for some of their modules. They are feeling discouraged. How would you advise them in this exam season?

 

Varsity is about working hard and reflection. Take time to reflect and draw valuable lessons on what could have gone wrong and aim to improve. Contrary to popular belief, in SOME instances not having a DP gives you enough time to focus on those courses you have a high chance of passing thereby actually passing them.

 

10. Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to success. How did you get over the fear of asking for help when you didn’t understand the work you were studying?

 

I think most people get scared of asking questions because they either think they don’t have the right words to express them (language) or they would be seen as not smart enough. Once you overcome these two thoughts you will be free to ask questions whenever you need to. For the former, I was in peace when I got to varsity that there is nothing I can do to change what I have been taught when it comes to the English language, my only way to improve was actually expressing myself in that broken English and the more I did the more I realize I was helping a lot of my fellow students. Although the latter can also be influenced by how a lecturer’s remarks on you asking a question, I realized that lecturers in general really liked being asked questions and you often get way more than you would if you did not ask. It’s a pity I realized some of these later.

 

  1. How did you get over procrastination and exam stress?

It is extremely important to be aware of consequences of our actions. They can help us to get rid of some of the bad habits such as procrastination.

 

  1. In summary, what words would you like to extend to students writing exams?

 

Varsity is a space that has many things that demand your attention, learn to choose wisely which ones you will give your attention to. Be selective in what you spend your time on even though it may not be an attractive thing. Get in the habit of reflecting on your plans and adjusting them necessarily. Lastly, have people you can do life with, it’s much easier that way.

Best Khosa with UCT Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng affectionately known as @FabAcademic on social media. Follow her for more exam motivation.

Thank you Best, for sharing your story with us and for mentoring young people. We wish you more success going forward. All the best, to the students who are still writing. Focus , Focus, Focus.