Development and planning academic Mnqobi Banele Ntjoko has an impressive resume for someone so young. Just last year, he completed his Bachelor of Community Development Studies and his Honours in the same field; he was offered a scholarship from the German academic exchange service (DAAD) that took him to Friedrich-Alexander University in Nuremberg, Germany; and he was granted the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship enabling him to complete his master’s in development management at Ruhr University in the German town of Bochum. But that’s not all: he was also named one of the most inspiring graduates at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal; appointed the academic development officer for UKZN’s school of built environment and development studies, and published three articles in department of higher education and training-accredited journals.
“I have always wanted to change the socioeconomic status of my family and it pushed me to work hard,” says Ntjoko, who grew up in Estcourt, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal.
“As I grew, I drew inspiration from people who have come from challenging backgrounds and yet made successes of their lives. Today, I am very passionate about education, specifically for young Black South Africans from rural backgrounds.”
Njoko wants to change the face of academia in South Africa – the average employee in this sector is a 60-year-old white male. He believes this makes it hard for young Black people to believe that they can occupy the same spaces.
“I have the platform to inspire our students and it has given me the opportunity to show the university what we are capable of,” he says. “My immediate plan for the future is to complete my PhD and then to further grow in the field of academia, particularly in development planning and management.”
“Only you know what you want in life and what it needs from you,” he concludes. “To be a success is an every day decision. You have to make this choice daily. My advice to young people is to remember that their backgrounds do not determine their future.”—Tamsin Oxford