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Busisiwe Mpembe builds a bright future in construction

Busisiwe Mpembe is the last born of 6 children. She grew up in a small farming town in the Free State called Heilbron. She studied a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management at Wits University, under the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. Later, she did her honours part time in Construction Management at the University of the Free State faculty of  Natural and Agricultural Science. Busisiwe has been serving on the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) Construction Management Development Committee for 6 years. She has founded organisations such as CIOB Novus and Chix with Brix. Both organisations aimed at bridging the gap and driving transformation. She has also had the opportunity to serve on numerous student bodies including the SRC at Wits University.   Currently, she is an entrepreneur in the construction and property space. She is also serving as the Executive Chairman of a research based NPO The Construction Management Foundation. Her two greatest qualities are her passion and confidence. She says, “Everything starts from within. People are drawn to those that exude confidence. Confidence brings about trust from others and once you can consistently display it, you can get everything you desire. Fake it till you make it!”

Read and be encouraged by her journey through university:

  1. What does education mean to you?

Education is the most crucial thing for any black child. Education is how we prove that we deserve a seat at the table. Education helps us become critical thinkers, it gives us confidence and gives us hope that our lives will be better than those that came before us.

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

Construction was a pure calling. I didn’t even do science in high school and it was a requirement to get into the programme. I had applied for Accounting Science and Actuarial Science but my Maths HG marks were not impressive at all (57%). My 3rd choice was Construction Management because I was rushing to complete my application, I heard Tokyo Sexwale talking about construction on TV in the background and I chose construction as a 3rd and final option. I had only applied to Wits University because I felt that that was the university that would give me the best access to the future leaders of this country. By some miracle I was accepted to do Construction Management and 2 months into the year I knew that it was the degree I was meant to study. 

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

Perfectly so. I’ve even coined a phrase “Construction Managers don’t save lives, they make life worth living”. The ability to give people dignity starts with access to basic infrastructure. Proper infrastructure makes life comfortable, it makes life worth living. Professionals in the built environment can contribute immensely to ensuring service delivery to the majority of the country.

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

I was always a 51% specialist. I didn’t do science in high school so having to do physics in 1st year was a nightmare. I ended up repeating Physics and that motivated me to get a tutor in order to perform better. It took me 5 years to complete my 3-year degree and what I did was ensure that I work on gaining experience outside of the classroom so that it was not a complete waste. Always look for the lesson and the light at the end of the tunnel. Lie to yourself if need be. I had to tell myself that I don’t have a 3 year degree after 5 years but I have a degree and 2 years’ experience so I walked into every space confident.  

  1. Has your upbringing affected your academic journey in anyway?

I was raised by teachers who understood the importance of education so they went above and beyond for me and all my siblings. They were always supportive and paid for everything including supplementary exams. I owe my qualifications to them. The support was not only financial. They gave me advice on how to build my character so that I can reach greater heights.

  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?

 It happens to the best of us. I didn’t get DP for a Property Valuation in my Honours year. It was a heart-breaking moment but I took it as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board. I consulted with the lecturer a lot the following year and formed a study group. Sometimes in life we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to achieve what is meant for us.

  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?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I tried to find those that I trusted and felt comfortable with in class because getting a tutor was not always affordable. There was also assistance at res so I went to the warden privately to ask for assistance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  2. 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 relate to most quotes by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. My favourite being, “Leadership belongs to those who take it!”

  1. Would you recommend group studying?

 I would. That teaches soft skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Furthermore, you either learn a lot or you get the ability to teach someone something they hadn’t covered or fully understood. Either of the two are great for your confidence going into exams.  

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

I always reminded myself why I was walking the path I am and I got to a point where I believed that being lazy means I am letting myself down and not keeping the promises I’ve made to my God. Exam stress is minimized by talking to those who have been in your shoes and getting advise on the papers you are about to write. Speak out! Never suffer in silence

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

They need to keep their eye on the prize and give it their all. They must not waste this opportunity but also remember that God’s timing is everything. It is not about when you finish with studies, it is about IF you finish.

 

All the best to all those writing exams. Thank you Busisiwe for the words of encouragement.

 

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Siyabonga from Kwa-Mashu bags a Cum-Laude for his Mathematical Statistics degree

Siyabonga Mbonambi was born and bred in Kwa-Mashu in Durban. He is the last born of 5 children and was raised by his mother. He holds a Bcom in Economics & Statistics and a Bcom Honours Mathematical Statistics degree both achieved with Cum Laude from the department of Statistics at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). He has been recognised by Allan Gray during the year 2015 and 2016 for being amongst the top 20% in his undergraduate faculty at NMU . Currently he is working within the Retail and Business Bank space at one of the top financial institutions in Johannesburg.  Read more about Siya’s journey through university and get some motivation for your exam preparations below:

Siyabonga Mbonambi graduating at Nelson Mandela University

  1. What does education mean to you?

Education to me is a journey, an unending process which does not only entail the acquisition of knowledge but also the acquisition of skills, values, beliefs, behaviour and the meaning of being alive. Education does not mean school. Education is a mental muscle trainer which is obtained correctly, can assist in one’s daily life and enable one to think holistically rather than one ‘dimensionally’. Education is about critical thinking and encouraging our minds to take something that is being said and to look at it in a different way.

  1. Why did you choose to go into Statistics?

It’s the recognition of my strengths, I believe that I am numerically strong and I enjoy solving problems involving numbers. I enjoyed mathematics and accounting more than other subjects in high school. Another reason which made me choose Statistics was because I wanted to take the “road not taken”. At the time, when I was in high school I did not know anyone that took Mathematics as a career choice and so I wanted to take that route. 

     3.  Seeing that you chose the right course of study for you, do you think it’s possible for someone to be in the wrong field of study?

Yes, the ability of being able to study and finish a course does not necessarily reflect that it is where you should be and that it is what you should have done. I think a metric which could be used to evaluate this is to ask yourself this question – in the absence of monetary benefits of the chosen field of study, would you still pursue it? Some people are studying their family’s chosen course and not theirs. Finding out what it is that you want to study (if you want to study) has to do a lot with finding yourself and answering the question of who am I.

     4. What would you say to that person who is experiencing 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?

My honest advice if someone feels as if they have taken the wrong course would be to initially stick it out, do not make extreme decisions driven by emotions. It is already towards the end of the semester, hold on to the pressure and go write and pass those exams. During the December vacation, introspect, seek advice from those who have walked in the phase of being at University/College and someone that understands the pressure that the course comes with. You are where you are in your life at this moment for a reason – keep a positive mind-set, it is okay to feel like you have had enough of the course that you do not enjoy. I would advise that the ability of being able to change your perspective (how you view the course) might change the feeling you might have currently. Sometimes you think you hate the course whereas really you hate going to class or don’t like the lecturing style of a certain lecturer- learn to distinguish between those. Seek counselling. You have started already, it’s almost over, hold on. If you enjoy the course and it has been what you have always wanted to do but you are currently failing, do not change. Failure is part of life, it is how we learn from failure that adds value in us growing and making it through life. Life is not a smooth ride. If today was very difficult for you to study, it is okay. Rest, go to bed. Try again, with a positive attitude of “I am going to make it tomorrow”.

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

One of the major obstacles which I have had to overcome was to shy away from people who were always complaining about how difficult the course was. That energy was killing my drive. I started associating more with positive friends who were like minded and wanted the same things. I watched motivational videos online to help me keep and maintain focus. In my 1st and 2nd year, food was a major concern, it altered my ability of wanting to study. Fortunately enough for me, my friends were also going through the same and so the gathering of funds as a group really did help us because it meant that we could get an increased amount of food and an improved quality as well. I got to university thinking that I was the big shot, I am smart, because of this, this hindered me in asking for help from either peers or lecturers, which hit me really hard when I would not understand a certain concept. I had a pride issue and I realised that after failing my first semester test in a course that I thought I knew. From there I realised that I cannot do this on my own, I need help and hence the formation of various study groups which really improved my academic performance.

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

My background has been the one sole motivator of where I am today. Coming from a location, like many other locations, characterised by teenage drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, heavy levels of crimes made me fight really hard in getting out of such an environment. My neighbourhood does not have many role models that progressed and became successful in life through by taking the academic route and for me that fueled me. I wanted to change the status quo and inspire the younger guys coming after me to show them that a career choice in a mathematically inclined field is possible.   My struggles growing up in Kwa-Mashu became motivation for me to pursue a better life, a greater life and an improved standard of living for my family and I.

 

We thank Siyabonga for taking time to talk to us and we wish all the students the best during this exam season. You are more than capable. Breath in and out, take it one day at a time. Share this article and follow us for more motivation on our social media platforms. 

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Dr Tshepiso Choma shares how she made a success from studying a degree in medicine

Dr Tshepiso Choma grew up in the township of Soweto in a loving family consisting of her very supportive parents, a younger brother and an older sister. She studied a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Pretoria in the faculty of health sciences. She graduated in 2014 and since then she served two years of internship at Chris Hani Baragwaneth. This was a lifelong dream of hers to work in one of the most pivotal hospitals in her township and in the continent and serve her one-year community service at Pretoria West District Hospital. Since her graduation she obtained several certifications including certificates in Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Paediatric Advanced Life Support. She also completed a course in complicated HIV and HIV resistance management. She is currently working at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in the department of Medical Oncology and her hope is to specialise to become a Clinical Oncologist. She says the greatest contributor to her success is her Christian Faith. Read more about how Dr Choma navigated through university and managed to make a success of her exams below:

 

              Dr Choma and her husband, Mr Marvin Choma

  1. What does education mean to you?

Education is the single most important aspect in my life as I have seen how it has changed not only the trajectory of my life but the benefit to my community and the legacy to my family. Being one of the few people to attend university in my maternal family has been one of the greatest honours I have achieved and the pride my family have in me is a constant reminder to keep striving to do more. I believe that a quality, comprehensive education is the one gift that every child deserves to have and its one of my future aspirations to be involved in changing the landscape of basic education in poorly resourced areas.

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into medicine?

My role models growing up were Mother Theresa and the philanthropist, theologian and missionary doctor Dr Albert Schweitzer.  They were the quintessential examples for me of individuals who, through their faith and skills in medicine, were able to touch the lives of many not only spiritually but more importantly physically. Since then I decided that the one way I could best serve humanity was through the ministry of healing. That’s how I chose to do medicine, it was really a way for me to feel closer to God and to feel I had a purpose.

 

  1. Looking back do you feel you medicine was the right choice?

Many times I felt overwhelmed by the length of my studies ( a very long 6 years with an additional 4-5 years to specialise) and when I started working, the environment was demotivating because of the lack of resources, hard hours and strenuous nature of the work. But despite all that I am happy that I have the academic background I have and I have grown to appreciate what I can still do with my degree.

 

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

Absolutely, but I also think that it is never too late to change your field of study or go back and to study something completely different. Forging a career isn’t only about the degree you study, but it’s also about your experiences, how you see your life in future and how you develop the impact you feel you want to make in the world. Some of the people I respect most highly are those who were not limited by what they studied and those who expanded, changed or grew from the fields they had studied. One such personal icon is Dr Mamphela Ramphele who obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) from the University of Natal then a B.Comm. in Administration from the University of South Africa amongst other meritorious qualifications. With these qualifications from vastly different fields she managed to hold prestigious positions from being the first black female vice chancellor of a South African university (a position she held at the University of Cape Town) to becoming the first South African to hold the position of one of the four Managing Directors of the World Bank. A medical doctor becoming the head of the biggest financial institution is evidence enough that your field of study need not limit the potential of your success.

 

  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 have started or are around the corner? How would you motivate them?

I would motivate them to continue with all the strength they have and complete their studies. No matter what challenges they face in their current studies they will always encounter other challenges despite whichever field they may change to. In essence nothing is ever going to be easy but persevering and completing what you start gives you a platform to grow and to have access to greater opportunities. Also failing a module, subject or year is not a marker of their intelligence or future potential; it’s an opportunity to recognise their weaknesses and to focus on improving them. There is no ideal time to finish any course so forget the pressure. Do your best and be willing to dust yourself up and try again. A persevering spirit always prevails.

 

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

My greatest obstacle was funding throughout my tertiary studies, so to support myself I spent three years of my degree working as a waitress and assisting in the university’s skill lab. Although, my studies sometimes suffered because of the extra hours I was putting in to work; I kept on persevering despite and managed to make it.

 

  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?

Yes, I am grateful my parents believed in education and supported me as much as they did throughout my journey. Despite the financial limitations I sometimes may have faced, the support of my family emotionally allowed me to look past the difficulties.

 

  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.

I always have a study schedule planned well before exam season! I treated every day like it was exam season right from the beginning of the year to spread the work out evenly and I worked consistently every day instead of trying to squeeze everything into a very short exam period. A little work done every single day (yes, even weekends) goes a really long way.

 

  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?

For me fear is very similar to pride and the only way to overcome that fear was to be humble. For as long as you hold the pride that you don’t want people to think you are a failure or stupid, you won’t get the help you need. One of my favourite Chinese proverbs reads: “a man who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, but a man who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”. These words have always stuck with me so be willing to humble yourself and admit your shortcomings so that you can gain true wisdom.

 

  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?

This isn’t really a quote but a latin mantra that I live my life by: “Age quod agis”- it means “do what you are doing”. What this really means is that no matter how small or big or insignificant a task may seem you should do it with inspiration and dedication. I love that because it speaks to work ethic- always do your best and give your all into everything, even to things that don’t bring merit, honour or recognition. You never know when your efforts and consistency will be recognised and truly rewarded.

 

 

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

I don’t think it’s something any student ever really gets over (she laughs). You have to try and be disciplined but also realistic. I always used to schedule time in my study schedule for fun activities and even time for procrastinating.

 

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

You are loved and you are already a success by having made it into the field of study you are studying. Don’t forget that all the pressure is internal and that no matter how long it takes you will fulfill your purpose in this world if you don’t give up. You have a whole life outside your studies family, friends and those you encounter every day and your true worth is not in whether you pass or fail your exams but it’s in your very presence in the lives of those around you. Don’t let the fear of failure fool you into discouragement, loneliness, fear and anxiety but remember that you always have a second chance and that failure is an opportunity to only achieve greater success.

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Maxine Gray invests her time in the future of our young ones

Maxine Gray is 28 years old, she’s a Board Member of imagine.nation (NPO) and founder of the Winter Warmer Initiative. Imagine.nation focuses on education and entrepreneurship in informal sector communities, particularly with a focus on Early Childhood Development (ECD). The Winter Warmer project is targeted at raising funds to provide polar fleece blankets to creches and other beneficiary organisations in need of assistance in keeping children warm while at school such that they can learn. Imagine.nation partners with a local supplier organisation who sources and makes up the polar fleece blankets. The Winter Warmer project started in 2010 as a personal project for Maxine and became an official imagine.nation project in 2015. Next year will be the 10-year anniversary for the Winter Warmer project.

 

We asked Maxine a couple of questions around the imagine.nation and the Winter Warmer project:

 

  1. Why is imagine.nation important?

 

We believe that education is the key to unlocking a better future for all and that if a child is given a good foundation, from an early age that he/she will be significantly more equipped to be able to develop, learn and grow into a successful adult. By providing a safe, educational space where children can learn from just a few months old to age 6 before entering primary school, it also enables parents to be able to seek employment and provide for their families thus promoting employment, higher income levels and assisting in alleviating poverty. I believe there is a direct link between ECD and alleviating poverty, using entrepreneurship to unlock economic potential.

 

  1. What’s been your biggest challenge in being a part of imagine.nation?

 

Balancing a full-time career and working in this space which I am so passionate about is difficult. Having limited time can make one feel despondent when progress seems slow or not at the pace I would have hoped, however looking back to where we have come from is always a great reminder of the compounded impact consistent work has had over the years. Also, funding and dedicated volunteers who are truly committed to the cause are always hard to come by.

 

  1. What advice would you give to other positive social change agents?

 

Always fuel your fire by consistently connecting with your passion, people that share your passion and surrounding yourself with people who support you in these endeavours. Never be too hard on yourself, set realistic goals based on your capacity and be consistent – a small amount of dedicated time, each day, compounds into great success over time – be patient and never give up.

 

  1. Is there any resource you’ve tapped into, that’s helped imagine.nation? What is it?

 

Family, friends, colleagues, social networks and fellow One Young World Ambassadors.

 

  1. If you would request one thing for the work you’re doing, what would it be?

 

For the Winter Warmer, with 2020 being the 10-year anniversary, my goal is to be able to raise enough funds to get 10 000 blankets distributed to children and organisations in need. As such, funding (donations) and support of the campaign, through social networks, family, friends and companies is required to be able to reach this goal. We are looking to raise R500k by June 2020 in order to achieve this.

 

  1. Any events coming up?

 

We run a program called “Parties with a Purpose” which we host once a month – the idea is to allow people to celebrate their Birthdays with an educational, fun morning at our Boitshepo creche in the Lanseria area. We are doing a Winter Warmer distribution at our Boitshepo creche on 7 July.

 

  1. For more information check out these pages or email Maxine:

 

Instagram: @imagine.nation_insta

Facebook: Imagine.nation

Email: maxinegray.imagine.nation@gmail.com

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KwaZulu Natal’s, Dr Nqobile Xaba shows us that anything is possible if you believe and work hard

PhD graduate, Dr Nqobile Xaba grew up in a village called Tafelkop in the rural outskirts of Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal. She attended school at a local primary and secondary school that was a short walking distance from home. Her number one passion is youth empowerment through education. Over the years, she has been involved with NPOs in order to reach out to communities in disadvantaged areas.  Dr Xaba, studied a BSc degree in Pure and Applied Chemistry in which she graduated Cum Laude, and BSc Honours degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the Faculty of Natural Science and Chemistry Department. She proceeded to obtain a MSc degree in Chemical Engineering Sciences at North-West University in the Chemical Engineering department and Engineering Faculty. Last year, she graduated with a PhD in Chemistry at the University of the Western Cape from the faculty of Natural Science and Chemistry Department. She says,” I believe in myself more than anything; I believe in living an impactful life and making a difference in the world. I am determined; I set goals and work as hard as I can to achieve them”. We are completely inspired by her story.

 

See our full interview below:

 

  1. What does education mean to you?

My parents were never afforded the opportunity to be educated and they wanted nothing more than us to be educated. For me it was my way out, it was the only way I was going to be able to support my family, and ensure a brighter future for myself and siblings. Over the years, I have also realised that education to me means freedom, gives me the capacity to expand my thinking capabilities, to think beyond what currently exist, means the ability to create, generate and transfer knowledge.

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into Chemistry?

I have always been curious about science and how the world works from a young age. I had a choice to either do a major in biology or chemistry in my first year, I was more fascinated by chemistry, so I chose that route. Fast forward a few years later, I decided I wanted to do research that would tackle current global issues and energy shortages and so I decided I would do energy related research for MSc and PhD. I am still continuing work in this field.

 

  1. Have you always known you wanted to study the degree you have chosen?

I have always known I was going to be a scientist from the day that my grade 4 teacher told us about science. I then had to decide on my first year the field of science I was going to specialise in.

 

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

I believe in living an impactful life, I want to make a difference in someone’s life. I believe that doing research on trying to find alternative energy solutions will address the national and global energy and climate problem. That is how I intend on using my education and skills to improve the quality of life.

 

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

Yes I do, often when applying or enrolling at university or college, we take up courses due to availability of space, points or selections system, based on parental advice or peer pressure, or lack of knowledge to available courses or fields of study. Any of the above reasons can sway you towards a degree that might not be suitable for you or one you can’t cope with. So I believe that at least one should know whether they want to be in science, or commerce because most first year degree courses are general and gives you the option of changing to another field on your second year without losing credits or feeling like you wasted a year. Also, most students do not get the opportunity to take a gap year where they can truly explore their career options through internships, or job shadowing; this limits your options for career choices.

 

  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? How would you motivate them?

I would advise them to study their best. My post graduate experience has taught me that the degree that you study does not determine your career path. I have friends who studied chemistry and work in the banking industry, and some are financial analyst. Your degree is meant to equip you with the skills to handle anything and that is important. Your career path is up to you in the end. If they feel strongly about it and do not see themselves proceeding, I would advise them to seek career counselling, and then change to the course they feel is more suitable to them.

 

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

Heavy workload to adjust to, from attending lectures, practicals, tests, exams etc. I had to manage my time well and put in the extra hours. I had no option but to pass in order for my scholarship to be renewed the next year without funding I would have to go home. That is a reality for most students. I did attend counselling in my first year just to talk to someone, I was lucky to have known about this service, we also had mentors who were helpful, and I had good friends with similar background so we leaned on each other for support. Balance is also a challenge, I had to allocate a non-negotiate time to me at least once a week to calibrate the system by doing something I enjoy that is not academically related like binge watching movies or reading a novel or chilling with friends.

 

  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?

Yes it did. I went to a disadvantaged school with limited resources. I saw a computer for the first time in first year and had to learn to type while other students could already do this. I had never been inside a science laboratory or seen it while my class mates had. I took this as a challenge, it motivated me, because I was fascinated by everything and wanted to learn. I managed to turn these challenges into motivation. I think it turned out well since I graduated on top with the only cum laude in my chemistry class.

 

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

Having a study timetable first. You have to study all of your courses at the same time if they are close to each other and only focus more on one the day before or two. Form a study group with classmates or friends. This will assist in keeping you accountable, having someone to ask for help if you don’t understand.

 

  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 that was being taught?

I had a group of amazing friends, I was always comfortable to ask them for help. I was afraid to ask the lecturer alone so we would always go as a group.

 

  1. Would you recommend group studying?

Yes I would. Keeps one accountable, and ensures that you have someone to help you with something you are struggling with. Just ensure you choose the right group of people.

 

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

This was my approach: Preparation is key. If you prepare well, you will write well. Exam stress will always be there but ensure that you prepare to ease off the fear of knowing you were underprepared for it. Also, ensure that you sleep, put it in your study timetable so that, ensure that you eat and hydrate. So that you don’t get health related issues during the exam.

 

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

Prepare for your tests and exams. Once you have attended all lectures and you have all the information, study hard and do your best. You have come this far not by coincidence but by your determination. Do your best.

 

The Young Catalyst team welcomes all university students to a new academic year. We have begun our #YoungAcademics series featuring some of South Africa’s top university graduates. The aim of the series is to encourage you in your academic journey whilst celebrating the success of our young graduates. Follow us on all our social media platforms to make sure you don’t miss out on everything we are up to. Contact us on info@theyoungcatalyst.co.za if you’d like to be involved with our initiative. Let’s work hard this year to ensure we get closer to getting those degrees.

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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.

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Future doctor and high academic achiever, Sithembiso Ndlovu shows us how to press on despite losing loved ones

Sithembiso Ndlovu was born and bred in Steadville Township in the small town of Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from the Department of Social Development within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Cape Town in 2014. Further to this, he graduated with a Master of Public Health (Social Behavioural Sciences) degree from the University of Cape Town’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Currently, he is studying towards a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health Medicine with the School of Nursing and Public Health at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) and is a Social Behavioural Researcher at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI). He is the last born of two children from his late mother and during his first year Sithembiso also lost his elder sister. Although he has experienced so much hardship, through his determination, he has accomplished several notable achievements. He was chosen to be a part of the UCT Faculty of Humanities’ Dean’s Merit List for the 2014 academic year. Further to this, he was invited to become a part of the UCT Golden Key Honour Society for the 2016 academic year. He is also a National Research Foundation (NRF) scholarship recipient for 2015 and 2016 for his postgraduate studies. Through his work and education, he hopes to give back to the community of Ladysmith, particularly Steadville Township, he is in the foetal stage of establishing an education foundation. The foundation is envisaged to reach out to as many needy and deserving primary and high school learners and assisting them throughout their academic journey. He says ,  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” a quote by Lao Tzu that has kept him going through tough times.

 

  1. Why did you choose to go into the field of Social Work?

I chose to study towards a Social Work degree because I thought that I liked it, at the same time I had a very slight idea what the programme entailed. It is safe to say it was one of the hasty decisions I have made in my life. I remember at some point, I felt the need to change programmes but felt that I did not want to start another programme from the beginning. Social work was a blessing in disguise in a way that it opened my eyes to questioning and understanding more about my environment and people’s social experiences. Moreover, I have always had a keen interest in understanding the social aspects of HIV and AIDS, especially coming from a province that has one of the highest HIV cases, and a community where people who live with HIV exist, others succumbing to AIDS, while the conversations around the epidemic remained taboo and unspoken about. I made a conscious decision to focus my research on social aspects of HIV and AIDS, and MPH programme provided me the platform to undertake the research. As a result, my MPH mini-dissertation focused on men’s experiences of HIV testing services in Gugulethu Township, Cape Town. I was not fully satisfied though because I had not done any research in my community or town. That was when I entertained the idea of applying for a PhD in Public Health with the main research areas being Steadville Township and Driefontein, and the area of exploration remaining understanding men’s motivations to test or not test for HIV on a broader scale.

 

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

Studying social work made me understand the social aspects of a number of things, including how one’s family’s socioeconomic status could play a role towards getting education that we all believe is key to changing family socioeconomic situations, what one’s immediate environment can influence their state of being either positively or negatively, and what that does to an individual. MPH will enable me to give back to the community through knowledge and research, and find ways to mitigate whatever areas of concern that emerge from research through working with various stakeholders in and around Ladysmith. My proposed education foundation will give a chance to the needy and disadvantaged children from my community to attain education that will change their lives in as much as it changed my life.

 

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

For me, social work was not the right course in terms of the professional and career path I wanted to embark in, but certainly contributed a great deal towards my knowledge base and critical thinking. MPH was definitely the right course for me, mainly because of it being research-oriented and the fact that it allowed me to explore what I had wanted to explore for some time.

 

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

It is very much possible. It happens all the time. One needs to understand that some come from families that value education and believe that education is the answer to alleviating financial problems faced by their families. As a result, some find themselves studying towards attaining qualifications that are either not right for them or which they are not passionate about. It is usually a matter of striving towards financially lucrative careers even when one is not passionate about the programme.

 

  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?

That’s a heavy one, hey. It begins with being honest with yourself that you are struggling with something(s) and thus need help. If one believes that they are in the wrong field, it is never too late start afresh and study towards a qualification that they really have a passion for. They need to study towards a qualification that would make them feel content and satisfied. I would also advise them to make use of the university student wellness centres that offer counselling services to learn more about themselves and their situation, and find ways that will make them make more informed choices, both in their academic space as well as personal lives. They also need to realize that they are studying for themselves and not for their families and therefore need to listen to their inner-self regarding their course of study.

 

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

Post-matric, I took two gap years. The university environment was foreign to me, and the medium of instruction which was, and still is English, added salt to the wound as I was from a background where almost every learning area was taught in IsiZulu. As a result, I struggled a lot academically in my first year, and first semester of second year. Although I did not fail any module, I did not attain the grades that I had expected to. Throughout my entire tertiary academic tenure, I lost a number of loved ones, starting with my elder sister and a close cousin. Both of them passed on in my first year (2011) (a month apart) and I also lost three of my uncles and aunt between 2012 and 2015. As a result, I experienced heavy emotional harm. I am one person who does not always open up about his emotions and I tried to cover up and pretended that everything was well. I never sought any psychological assistance. In 2013 and 2015, I found comfort in alcohol but my friends and family had no idea what I was going through and they thought that my drinking was a result of peer pressure. I overcame the obstacles through having conversations with myself where I would question what I was going through, read up on various coping strategies, and opened up to my friends. I wish I could have been more open and even utilize student wellness services that were at my disposal.

 

  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?

In a big way. I have always strived towards becoming the best in every aspect of my life, especially academics; simply because I wanted to give myself and my family a financially better life than we were exposed to during our upbringing. Pursuing my postgraduate studies in UCT with the main focus on HIV/AIDS was also as a result of having lost some of my loved ones due to AIDS-related illness.  I do not believe my upbringing limited me as such, but being an inquisitive person that I believe I am, I always felt there were things that I wanted to explore and know more about which I believed I would not have been able to get any in-depth information and knowledge from my family.

 

  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?

Not securing a DP for any of the modules is one of the things that I would not wish upon any student. For those who have not attained their DPs, I would advise them to consult with their lecturers and tutors to find out if there is a way they can make up for it. They should not stop believing in themselves and their capabilities.

 

  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.

I would develop a study time table a month before commencement of examinations. Some people may wonder why I would only develop one a month before examinations, and the honest answer is that I work well under pressure, and that has always been the case. Given my short concentration span, I would dedicate half a day to one module and the other half for the other module. I would study for 3 hours straight and take 1 hour long break, study again and take 5-10 minute breaks in between. I would always start with the modules that I would write first, and then proceed to modules I would write later. It worked well. I revised two days before the exam.

 

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

By proper planning and time management, I made sure that I would study in time before the exams would begin. To avoid stress and to relax a bit, I would log into Facebook, eat, listen to music, and sometimes visit my friends.

 

  1. In an exam, do you answer in chronological order or do you start with the questions which you feel comfortable with?

Initially, I used to answer chronologically until I realised that it was not a good strategy for me as I would suffer from anxiety from the questions that were challenging. I then decided to start with the questions that I understood better and more comfortable with. It worked.

 

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

I wish them nothing but the best with their examinations. Their hard work and dedication will not go to waste. They should consult their lecturers when they don’t understand some of the work. Study smart.

 

Thank you to Sithembiso for the incredible honesty and courage in which you have shared your story. We hope it has uplifted and encouraged people like it has us. To the students, keep focused and disciplined during these exams. The uncomfortable will produce the results you will be most happy with, work hard. Share the story and follow our pages. #YoungAcademics

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‘THE YOUNG CATALYST: ACADEMICS’ launches, as we carry out our first exclusive interview with the phenomenal, SIBAHLE MAGADLA

 

Our first interview for “THE YOUNG CATALYST: ACADEMICS” had to be a lady who represents possibility and fearlessness. Sibahle grew up eMthatha in the Eastern Cape and has gone on to travel the world. She holds two Masters degrees, one is a Master of Science (MSc) Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; and a Master of Commerce (MComm) Economics from the University of Cape Town. To study in the UK, Sibahle was awarded the prestigious Chevening scholarship. This young lady has participated in many leadership development programs and summits, from the South Africa- Washington International Program (SAWIP) held in the United States of America to One Young World 2014 which was held in Dublin. Sibahle is also a passionate blogger and has a blog called Sibasselah which discusses travel, socio-economics, and other relevant issues (www.sibasselah.com). She says to us, “I was born to parents who value education and to me education is empowerment!”. We thank God for Sibahle’s parents and her continued resilience.

Read more below, as Sibahle provides some exam tips and shares on her story:

  1. Why did you choose to go into Economics?

I chose economics because I wanted to understand better the root causes of poverty, and how to address them.

 

  1. Have you always known you wanted to study the degree you have chosen?

No. I initially studied actuarial science because I was interested in providing proper health coverage for low income South Africans. During the course, I learnt about Health economics, which falls under development economic, so I consequently branched into the Economics field.

 

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

Yes, it’s possible, as I was depressed before I found my way to Economics. It felt so great when I finally felt like I was pursuing what is aligned with my passion and values. Keep in mind that even if you are study something different, there’s always a way to get back into what you want to do. It’s all about mindset!

All smiles as Sibahle walks on stage for her graduation day

  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?

Our circumstances are different so I would tell the person to consider their options. I was on a bursary so changing courses meant losing a bursary, which was tough! So as soon as I switched to Economics, I spoke to some lecturers and advisors about funding opportunities. I suggest you speak to your advisor, consider your options and then take it from there. For example, if you’re about to complete the degree you’re not happy doing, see if you could possibly just write your finals and see if the following year you can switch to the program/field you do want. Sometimes the pressure or fear of switching comes from family; so chat to your parents/guardians and explain to them why it is important to you to pursue another field of study. More importantly, don’t compare yourself to your peers. We are all on our own race courses and it doesn’t matter if it seems you’re falling behind. What matters most is that you’re running strong!

 

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

I failed two courses in first year which meant having to repeat them the following year. This affected my confidence in my academic abilities a lot. I subsequently joined a study group, found a mentor and learned to ask for help from tutors, no matter how silly I thought my questions were. Funding was a massive problem for me too. At Honours and Masters levels, I was fortunate enough to find lecturers who believed in me, helped me with funding, gave me opportunities to work their research assistants to earn money. Some even invited me to conferences and events where they were guest speakers or panelists. All these things increased my exposure.

 

  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?

Do not feel ashamed. Failure sucks, but it is an opportunity to learn and do better in future. Focus on doing well on the courses for which you are able to write exams. Then for the course(s) you didn’t get DP, speak to your tutor/lecturer about how you can do better next time. Speak to an advisor as well about how this affects how long it will take to complete your degree. If it means you will graduate a year later, find out what else you can do during your extended time (e.g. join a society, get a part-time job on campus, get a lecturer to mentor you; start writing a blog, volunteer somewhere, etc.) to add to your skills set.

 

  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 got my exam timetable, I would create my own exam study timetable. I would allocate more study time to the courses I found more challenging. Moreover, for courses where exams were essay questions, I partnered with other students and we would exchange notes. Sometimes we would even meet and go through questions together in a workshop setting.

 

  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 can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

 

  1. Would you recommend group studying?

Yes! For my course it definitely worked! But you need to ensure that the group is bunch of people who take their work seriously. Even if you prefer studying alone, just try doing it at least once!

 

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

I remind myself why I am studying to get this degree: I am working hard to contribute towards society. In an effort to cope during exams, I do things like taking break in between studying, rewarding myself after each exam (go for ice-cream, watch a movie, etc.). I also surround myself with people who not only encourage me but hold me accountable by checking in on whether I’m doing my work. Prayer and words of encouragement from my lovely parents also helps with the stress.

 

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

The exam season always feel daunting but remember that you are more than capable. Approach every course with an attitude of victory and positivity. Even for that one course that you dread studying, find ways to overcome: get help from a tutor, tackle past papers with a colleague, find notes online (e.g. Khan academy) which explain concepts more simply. Do whatever it takes to build your confidence. Remember that YOU CAN DO IT!

 

Thank you Sibahle for your time. You remain a shining light. To all the students, make sure you limit your time on social media and focus during this exam season. These articles are meant to motivate not distract from the main goal. We want you all to read the article, use the tips provided and FOCUS on the books. Finish strong!!!

We will be sharing more stories, tips and motivation for this exam season. Share the article, follow us on social media and tell another student about us and remember to keep the main goal, the main goal. #YoungAcademics