Education

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Ntokozo Ndlovu, 34

SANDF soldier Founder
The Web Foundation

“When you see someone in uniform, it’s often difficult to imagine the life they lead beyond their occupation. Ntokozo Ndlovu spends his days working as a soldier in the South African National Defence Force, a job made all the more difficult with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it’s the extracurricular work that Ndlovu does with The Web Foundation that makes him one of the brightest young South Africans. The Web Foundation works to support, motivate and inspire children in rural schools to read, participate in sport and engage with art. It’s geared towards increasing literacy skills while also providing the children with access to quality books and a sustainable development plan. Ndlovu proudly explains that the foundation has built 45 school libraries in rural areas across the country, as well as three e-libraries. The libraries have reached more than 18 000 children and provide access to more than 375 000 books.

Somehow, in the meantime, Ndlovu has managed to publish two books: the first, Matsimane and His People, is about his family’s history, and the second is an isiZulu children’s book called Izethuso Neziluleko Zabazali Bami. Ndlovu does this work because he believes in the power of reading and writing, learning and developing. “To improve your writing, write more. To improve your public speaking, speak more publicly. To improve your knowledge, teach more. To improve your relationships, give more. To build resilience and optimism, do more,” he exclaims.

His drive is to leave a legacy of goodwill and to make the world better than he found it. “I want to see a literate nation, because through literacy we can win the fight against poverty.”

Author - Scott Dodds
Xolane Gratitude Ngobozana, 35

Xolane Gratitude Ngobozana, 35

Founder
Wattville Achievers

Xolane Ngobozana is the president of the Donate A School Bag campaign, which started in 2015 to help disadvantaged learners by donating school bags, sanitary towels, foods and clothes to learners and families. So far the campaign has assisted more than 6 000 learners. With the Covid-19 pandemic, he has provided groceries and secondhand clothes to child-headed families.

Ngobozana is the National Reading Coalition ambassador. He has also worked with Activate! Change Drivers organisation for their assembly “read aloud” campaign and has donated books and newspapers from Activate! Change Drivers and Nal’ibali to children in townships. And he’s also the founder of Viruz Empire Media group, which promotes young, up-and-coming artists.

One of his proudest moments is having had the courage to quit drugs. He hopes to influence, inspire and motivate others. Ngobozana says he has the desire to be a better human being and wants to achieve his dreams, and that’s what drives him every morning: “I don’t want to live like animals. Just eat, sleep and repeat. I want to do something creative and new daily.” He works to empower people by making them understand who they are, so that they can accept themselves as they are. They can then build on their strengths so that they can move away from harmful behaviour.

His accomplishments include speaking at TEDx Talk stage in Pretoria, being selected by the National Youth Development Agency as one of 100 South African shining stars, and receiving a Business on the Move title at the Ekurhuleni Mayor’s Awards. He says he would like to see the government investing more in young people from rural and township areas. Overall, Ngobozana says he wants to be someone who can influence, inspire and motivate other people.

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Tsatseng Rantsho, 26

Tsatseng Rantsho, 26

Candidate attorney and founder
Sgela 1st

Many battles for improving the lives of those around you are won in the courtroom. That’s the thinking of Daveyton local Tsatseng Rantsho, who’s hoping to use his passion and education to provide assistance to those who need it most.

Rantsho is a candidate attorney at Legal Aid South Africa, which is committed to assisting people who cannot afford their own legal representation. This includes vulnerable groups such as women, children and those in rural areas.

His compassion extends further with the founding of his non-profit group Sgela 1st, a motivational speaking and youth development organisation that educates young learners about the importance of their academics and how they can use their studies to achieve their goals. When students receive notable matric results, Rantsho provides them with a university starter pack including things like pots, books, an iron and a kettle. As he explains:

“I believe that Sgela 1st should not only preach education but facilitate it as well.”

Whether it’s a motivational speech to an entire high school or a convincing pep talk to a single student, Rantsho gives his all, because he knows any impact is a positive for the community of Daveyton. He’s renowned for his humility and dedication to the cause, a true leader who can provide young minds with direction and convince elders to join his fight. The power of mentorship and community are things he believes in strongly, and he is an example to not only the learners he is dedicated to assisting, but everyone who is lucky enough to cross paths with him.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Zwoluga Mutangwa, 21

Zwoluga Mutangwa, 21

Assistant teacher
Final Solutions

Zwoluga Mutangwa was born and raised in Tshidimbini in Limpopo, a rural setting which would foreshadow his future endeavours. A diligent student, he attended Wits University in Johannesburg before being financially and academically excluded, forcing him to return home. However, Mutangwa is an enterprising individual and what might have disheartened others only emboldened him. Upon returning to Limpopo, he began a company called Helen Frutas n Vegetal. It started small, with Mutangwa planting green peppers that he began supplying to outlets such as Spar, but it quickly grew. Thanks to some funding from a friend, Mutangwa has founded his own poultry farm with 200 chickens that provide eggs to local households and vendors.

The business aims to become a community pillar. Mutangwa says: “I would love to employ university dropouts, drug users and ex-convicts. Many people fall into those groups, and giving them opportunities to rejuvenate their lives so they are able to feed their own families would be my best wish for this country.”

In 2018 Mutangwa collaborated with his friend Vusani Neguyuni to write Final Solutions: a mathematics guide for Grade 12 learners, specifically aimed at students in rural areas. His passion for his community and for mathematics drove him to create the guide, which has been used across provinces to aid teachers. As of 2020, Mutangwa is working as an assistant teacher at Tshidimbini Secondary School, where he aims to directly impact rural students’ understanding of mathematics and, as a result, their futures.

James Nash | mg.co.za
Zama Mthunzi, 27

Zama Mthunzi, 27

Regional organiser
Equal Education

Zama Mthunzi is a social justice activist who works to ensure that young people are not locked out of job opportunities. Mthunzi uses radio and television to spread the message of education. In a country with more than 50% youth employment, Mthunzi believes in using education to uplift them.

The Johannesburg-based mathematical science graduate is the regional organiser for civil society organisation Equal Education in Gauteng. His work includes leading an anti-dropout campaign, which seeks to encourage disadvantaged schoolchildren to remain in the education system. His interest in developing young minds has seen him lead various programmes that promote reading.

His most recent initiative is in Ekurhuleni, where he has launched a post-schooling programme for youths who are not in institutions of higher learning, nor in any forms of employment. He says his work involves “trial and error” and he has learnt that social change requires both patience and commitment. He has also worked with organisations such as Khanya College and Jozi Book Fair in his various efforts to encourage youth education and involvement in academic pursuits.

As an advocate for youth education in general and a better understanding of the link between literacy and maths in particular, Mthunzi has contributed to various publications and educational resources.

Mthunzi hopes to encourage increased participation by youths in policy-making, which could lead to the implementation of concrete programmes aimed at eradicating youth unemployment.

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Dr Lerato Mokoena, 28

Dr Lerato Mokoena, 28

Lecturer
North West University

At a young age of 28, Dr Lerato Mokoena embodies the ancient Hebrew scripture that teaches us that “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” It all began in 2012 when Mokoena began her studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria. Eight years later, Mokoena has secured four qualifications under her belt including obtaining a PhD in Theology with specialisation in Old Testament Studies. She tells the Mail & Guardian that obtaining the PhD qualification was one of her proudest moments in her life. Her other notable achievements include being awarded the Dean’s merit award for outstanding academic achievement. She subsequently received a Doctoral scholarship award from the National Institute of Human and Social Sciences.

Mokoena serves as the youngest lecturer at the North West University’s Faculty of Theology, where she teaches Hebrew – an exciting aspect of her career that she didn’t anticipate, given the language’s ancient origins: “I am always in awe at how I was able to grasp the language and now being able to teach it.”

Passionate about the ongoing debates on land in the country,Mokoena will be attending a teaching Seminar in Jerusalem in January 2021 to speak on Land in the context of South Africa and Palestine from her honors research on land. In September this year, Mokoena will be one of the speakers in a webinar series on “The Power to Discriminate” at the University of Stellenbosch where she will be presenting a paper virtually on Perversion and Othering in the Hebrew Bible.

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Qinisani Qwabe, 25

Qinisani Qwabe, 25

Researcher, Founder
Mangosuthu University of Technology, Ubuntu AgriRenaissance

After failing his matric in 2011, Qinisani Nhlakanipho has picked himself up and now focuses his energies in things that matter the most to him. He says he failed his matric because he could not find the right balance between his social life and his studies. But, Nhlakanipho used his failure to change his life trajectory for the better. He worked to build himself up by reconditioning his mind to always strive for excellence. He explained that this is one of the wisest decisions he’s ever taken till this day. Now he works as a researcher and community engagement at the Mangosuthu University of Technology.

He also founded Ubuntu AgriRenaissance organisation in 2019. The organisation focuses on knowledge and livelihoods development through improved agriculture, youth & community engagement ,research, as well as the promotion, protection and management of indigenous knowledge systems. Besides education, he says he is trying to restore hope through social entrepreneurship to the younger generation residing in the rural settings with AgriRenaissance.

His current project is on climate change, and he has identified two primary schools in the northern KwaZulu-Natal which agreed to be green campuses and they will be used to also promote climate consciousness.

“This is important in the times that we live in since climate change is one of the impending catastrophes that our society has to deal with and which might severely affect future generations”, he says.

Nhlakanipho says his vision is to see a society that believes that it can be part of a better change, and that in order for change to happen. “It begins with each individual”, he emphasised.

He says what makes him happier is seeing a younger generation that values education and takes advantage of opportunities.

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Esihle Lupindo, 22

Esihle Lupindo, 22

Writer and poet
Freelance writer for Careers Magazine

Equal and accurate representation of black queer people is the force that drives the activism of writer and poet Esihle Lupindo.

Lupindo completed his undergraduate and honours degree in sociology at Rhodes University. He is studying towards his masters. His research is aimed at merging the past with the present while contributing to the future of black queer scholarship.

He says studying towards his masters is one of his proudest moments because he didn’t “think [he] would make it this far”.

He is passionate about justice and has been published in local publications, The Daily Vox and Destiny Careers magazine. He is also an associate of Nalane for Reproductive Justice where he is part of a team that advocates for women’s reproductive rights.

He lives by the words “Allow yourself to be vulnerable, loved and to make mistakes. There is enough space for your screams and joys, use whichever one is necessary.”

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Nkhensani Mogale, 34

Nkhensani Mogale, 34

Lecturer
University of Pretoria, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy

Nkhensani Mogale began her career as a part-time lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, and has been consistently breaking new ground ever since. In 2014, she became the first black female lecturer at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (previously called Medunsa, the Medical University of South Africa) in the anatomy and histology department. In 2017, she was then appointed as the first black female lecturer in the University of Pretoria’s clinical anatomy section of the department of anatomy.

Mogale is the honorary aecretary of the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa, where she is again the first black woman to occupy the position.

She has made it evident that nothing will stop her from achieving her goals. “One of my proudest moments was definitely completing my PhD within the three year set time,” she says.

“I had a plan set out with timelines of submission of the manuscript when I fell pregnant with my second daughter during the third year of the PhD. Needless to say when my daughter was born that plan took a different form.” Nappy changes, night feeds and helping with her elder daughter’s homework coincided with completing her manuscript.

Her continued presence in her field, both as a researcher and lecturer, has served as an inspiration for other women of colour who would pursue a career in medicine.

“I want to be one of the best in the field and make an impact,” Mogale says. “I want to make a positive impact in the lives of the students I have the pleasure of lecturing. Knowing I get to be a small part of their journey makes me want to be a positive and memorable part of that journey.”

James Nash | mg.co.za
Tinyiko Simbine, 29

Tinyiko Simbine, 29

Co-founder and chief financial officer
GirlCode

Tinyiko Simbine’s proudest moment was when GirlCoders partnered with a British tech giant in 2019 and hosted a hackathon, which led to eight participants being offered permanent jobs in the United Kingdom.

Simbine, who has a Bcom from the University of Pretoria, wants more women to pursue careers in information and communications technology. She is about fostering a culture of learning among females to help bridge the gender gap in the ICT sector. She also aims to ensure that the less fortunate aren’t left behind in this technologically advanced world.
GirlCode is a nonprofit Simbine helped cofound. It is a nationwide network of free, volunteer-led, weekend coding clubs designed for high school girls who want a strong foundation in digital literacy and basic programming skills. A programme helps girls and women with no computer skills through an introductory course to basic computer and internet literacy.

GirlCode started off as a hackathon to get more girls excited about tech and has grown to help hundreds of girls through various initiatives such as monthly free coding sessions.

Simbine wants to bring more women into tech spaces in South Africa. She says she would like to see an African “Silicon Valley” where women have taken up the space “and lever their skills to better African countries”.

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Lebohang David Molapo, 23

Lebohang David Molapo, 23

Chief executive & chairman
LD Molapo Foundation

As the chairperson of the LD Molapo Foundation, Lebohang David Molapo has made it his mission to drive others to success:

“To be where I am today, I was inspired by someone who came from a similar background as mine to achieve greatness. Therefore I also want to be an inspiration to the next generation that comes from a similar background as mine, to show that all things are possible.”

The LD Molapo Foundation has established social initiatives to educate and advise youth to engage in further education, career development, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. This includes motivational tours of schools and prisons, festive care donating food parcels and clothes to disability centres, and the foundation’s Career Guidance Youth Expo Roadshow.

As Molapo describes it: “We travel around South Africa visiting schools in rural and township areas offering learners mentorships, career guidance and academic support. Using our online technological tools we match qualifying learners with bursaries and scholarship opportunities around South Africa. By exposing learners to these opportunities we believe we help them to help themselves out of poverty.”

These initiatives have already been recognised, with Molapo being listed among the 100 SA Shining Stars by the National Youth Development Agency in 2019, named alongside Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe in the Philanthropy category. “To me that was great, since she is someone I have been looking up to from a distance as a mentor and a role model.”

When asked what he’d say if he could offer advice to his younger self, he says: “There is no great thing that was created by one person. Therefore in this journey of life ask for as much help as you can and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. In that way you will grow and be successful in whatever you do.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Katlego Thwane, 27

Katlego Thwane, 27

Teacher and founding chief executive
Atlegang Bana Foundation

Transforming the status quo through youth development and education has to start from the ground up, and requires passionate and dedicated individuals. Individuals such as Katlego Thwane, teacher and founding chief executive of the Atlegang Bana Foundation, an organisation dedicated to honouring children’s curiosity and enriching and inspiring them to reach their fullest potential. Thwane is using community outreach and partnerships with schools to offer the right resources and knowledge, to make the biggest possible impact on the lives of children who need it most.

It’s tireless work, but he has been getting deserved recognition for his efforts. He was recognised by LeadSA Heroes on e.tv, won The Young Community Shapers Award and was awarded the prize in the Education category at the SA Men Awards. Thwane has also collaborated with Hollywoodbets and La Liga on community outreach programmes, a significant career milestone.

His drive comes from the satisfaction of seeing change and transformation in the youth, and the promise of better standards of living and education for the children of tomorrow. It’s vital to inspire them to believe they, too, can impact the community in the same way Thwane has, with the hope of instilling values into the leaders of the next generation.

There’s a lot of worth in your resilience, he explains, and if your faith in your ambitions is wavering, it’s your ability to not give up that is decisive.

“When all else seems to have knocked you down and you’ve run out of direction, remember that there is always a new day with new hope and beginnings.”

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Vuyo Pakade, 26

Vuyo Pakade, 26

Founder and chief executive
Foonda Technologies

Vuyolwethu Pakade founded Foonda Technology Solutions to help make tertiary education more accessible for young South Africans. There are countless obstacles that impede the progress of learners, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. This led Pakade to create the Foonda app, a digital platform that matches eligible students with tertiary education scholarships, bursaries and other sponsorships from around the world.

The app serves a dual purpose. First, it enables learners to see what offers they are eligible for. This allows them to plot a course of action and apply for support for their studies.

The second and less apparent effect of an app such as Foonda is something that defies quantification. Applying to tertiary education is a daunting prospect for even the most well-prepared of learners. Such a process can be overwhelming for those who lack strong support structures at home or school. This is especially the case when someone is not sure how they would finance their education. But, with an app like Foonda, the various paths are illuminated and students, who might have otherwise never thought to, will apply for scholarships and bursaries.

In essence, the app aims to make the journey of economic upliftment through education a more immediately viable choice for underprivileged learners.

Foonda recently received R2.1-million in funding from the Diageo Empowerment Fund, when the app landed in the top two in the 2019 Diageo Social Tech Startup Challenge.

Pakade’s own journey shows how much can be achieved through belief in oneself and, through Foonda, he’s hoping to open up that experience to all South Africans.

James Nash | mg.co.za
Ntsako Mhlanga, 21

Ntsako Mhlanga, 21

Social entrepreneur
Learnergy

“Your passions are the biggest drivers of your success”, according to social entrepreneur, educationist and ambassador for change, Ntsako Mhlanga. The 21-year-old’s contributions to the education sector has changed many lives for the better, and she’s using every opportunity to raise the quality of schooling in the hope that these foundational improvements can lead to a more promising future for young South Africans.

Mhlanga was selected to represent the learners of South Africa by the Human Rights Commission and presented a report for the national investigative hearing into the effect of protests on the right to a basic education, which marked the beginning of her advocacy in earnest. As a result of this report, learners in Limpopo received 20 mobile classrooms to assist learning after protests.

She also collaborated with the department of basic education on a documentary called Schools That Work, which involved traveling to 111 top schools to identify the recipes for their success. The documentary and learning resources were offered to schools that were struggling with academic performance.

In early 2019, Mhlanga was invited by the basic education department to attend the State of Nation address for her efforts, and to represent the learners in Parliament. She’s currently an ambassador for School Aid, a charity in the United Kingdom and South Africa that distributes educational and extracurricular resources to schools in developing countries. Five libraries have been built in the past year. Mhlanga is also the Play Your Part ambassador for Brand South Africa, helping amplify the feel-good stories across the country.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Sicelo Bhengu, 33

Sicelo Bhengu, 33

Senior deputy headmaster
Southdowns College

Sicelo Bhengu was a deputy head prefect of a prestigious school and, naturally, when he matriculated there were expectations about his career choice. It came as a disappointment to some when he chose teaching as a career. But the disappointment did not deter him from fulfilling his purpose and doing what he is passionate about. Today, at 33, Bhengu is deputy headmaster at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Southdowns College.

His wish is for young people to take their education seriously. His belief in education as a tool to unlock one’s potential was why he co-founded Linking Notes in 2011, a finishing school that helps young people improve their matric results. In 2015, he also co-founded Catholic Youth Development, which fundraises to pay the registration fees of young people wishing to study at university.

“To a person younger than me: choose a career that you are passionate about and not one that people believe is the right fit for you … Don’t let expectations from the (close) people around you deter you from fulfilling your purpose,” he says.

After all, if Bhengu had dwelled on others’ disapproval of his career choice he would have ended up in a job that he did not like and would be miserable. He says even though he is confident that he has worked hard to be where he is, the biggest surprise of his career is holding such a senior management role at a relatively young age, in an environment where he thought all obstacles were against him. Bhengu is finishing his master’s degree in leadership and policy education at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Bongekile Macupe | mg.co.za
Mpho Nkake, 21

Mpho Nkake, 21

Founder and ambassador
Together We Can succeed

It takes a bright and dedicated mind to be championing the plight of the youth in academics while still being young enough to be a student yourself. With only 21 years under his belt, Mpho Nkake has taken up that responsibility, working with several organisations to ensure students are given the best opportunities and support during their studies.

He is the founder of Together We Can Succeed, an organisation that focuses on helping students apply for higher learning institutions, offers the experiences and advice of students from different universities and guides students who are rewriting their matric. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has been tutoring students via WhatsApp to ensure that time isn’t lost in their preparation. When he’s not ensuring our future is in the best of hands he’s also an ambassador for Respublica Student Living and for Voices Unite, and has partnered with Mkaay Beauty to work on a skin care range.

Nkake emphasises the importance of helping senior students in getting into higher education institutions, primarily because that’s where most of us are able to discover our passion and begin working towards a career using that passion. He hopes that by creating opportunities for youth to identify a passion, he’ll be helping them be comfortable with who they are. He maintains success is a journey, and the level of success is only limited by how big your ambitions are. How you carry yourself is very indicative of a person, he explains.

“In life there are two things that define you; your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.”

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Asanda Sigigaba, 29

Asanda Sigigaba, 29

Principal
LEAP Science and Maths School

To take on full responsibility of a school at the age of 28 would be a daunting task for anyone, but when LEAP Science and Maths School in Linbro Park, Johannesburg, achieved a 100% matric pass rate in her first year as principal, Asanda Sigigaba’s decision to step into the role was vindicated.

There are six LEAP schools in the country offering free tutelage to high-potential learners from impoverished backgrounds. Sigigaba’s school serves the Alexandra township area. Children are taught in English, isiZulu, Sepedi and Sesotho.

As an educator, Sigigaba has direct influence on the young people. The message she conveys to them is one of tenacity and perseverance:

“Your background is not a determining factor of where you’ll end up in life. However, it can be a motivation for you to do everything possible to change your current and future reality. Don’t be scared to dream and don’t get tired of trying and pushing through even when it gets difficult and you fail.”

Sigigaba is hopeful of inspiring a new breed of leaders — “sensitised, caring leaders who will also lead in their families and communities so that children are protected and nurtured, and young women are empowered to be with no restrictions”.

Motivation isn’t hard to find. What drives her is “Knowing that I’m contributing to a positive change for our future leaders which will impact positively in their families and communities.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Boitumelo Katisi, 28

Boitumelo Katisi, 28

Commercial pilot
Aviation Development In Africa

Commercial pilot Boitumelo Katisi got her pilot’s license at the end of 2018 and became a recipient for the Outstanding Contribution to Aviation in South Africa award at the Civil Aviation Industry Awards a year later. On her birthday, she hosted the first aviation career expo ever in Soweto for over 1 000 kids, giving them an opportunity to gain exposure to aviation and the different careers in the field.

“I want to see kids from previously disadvantaged backgrounds dreaming bigger than their circumstances and getting exposed to careers they think are out of their reach. Our youth deserve to follow their passion too, and not just certain career paths or jobs where the money is the only motivation and they are working for survival,” she says.

She also hopes to encourage them to prioritise education, as it’s the key to a better future, but also to give back to their communities once they make it.

Katisi’s own career had quite an unusual start — her friend won her a R290 000 sponsorship to do her flight training on a radio show. She had called in to say her Christmas wish would be her friend Boitumelo Katisi getting the finance to do flight training, and that wish was selected as the winner. So she knows from her own experience that even the biggest dreams are possible when you believe in yourself and have support from your community. She is also constantly manifesting the future she is working towards. “My room is my vision board — the first things I see when I open my eyes are all the posters of private jets that I want to own and aircraft models — those dreams are what keep me going,” she says.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Mukundi Lambani, 33

Mukundi Lambani, 33

Founder
Ambani Africa

Mukundi Lambani caught the producer bug in 2010 when she began producing the international 48 Hour Film Project. At only 23, she bought the rights to produce the film festival in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Gaborone. The initiative created opportunities for more than 200 filmmakers, some of whom went on to Hollywood and at the Cannes film festival as a result of Lambani’s fundraising efforts.

Mukundi now works as the founder and director of Ambani Africa, an education technology company that teaches young learners mother-tongue through augmented reality, an interactive experience of a real-world environment, making it a fun learning resource. Ambani reaches 1.2-million learners in South Africa. The company is one of six that have been selected for the Injini Accelerator programme and is in line for other investments.

Mukundi also works with the Goethe-Institut and heads up the Creative Economies in Townships project, which supports entrepreneurs in Diepsloot, Ga-Rankuwa and Eersterust. The project provides market access, mentorship, travel exchange opportunities and paid job placements.

Lambani obtained her diploma in business management and administration from Varsity College. She has an honours degree in motion and picture medium from AFDA and a master’s in creative media leadership from Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom.

She believes a good educational foundation sets the tone for lifelong learning and, through her work at Ambani Africa and the Goethe-Institut, she hopes to “close the education gap”.

“I focus on the foundation phase because if you’re behind by the time you’re in a grade, you’re not likely to ever catch up,” she says.

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Masixole Makwetu, 31

Masixole Makwetu, 31

Youth development and education coordinator

As the youth development and education coordinator at the Cape Town Opera, Masixole Makwetu gives children from various backgrounds in the Western Cape a holistic introduction to opera. The programmes make the arts accessible to young talent and fosters an environment that nurtures their creativity. For Makwetu, seeing the positive effect on learners, teachers and others makes the effort worthwhile. He wants the children to look at him and see how hard work pays off.

Last year, Makwetu was invited to be an assistant director for Cape Town Opera’s season of Orphee et Eurydice. He also conducted the Langa Methodist Church Choir at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival.

“I believe in working with intention because it makes you appreciate and value all the fruits you reap,” he says.

He says he has had to learn to take credit when it’s due and that’s helping to shape his vision for success.

Seeing dreams through needs as much passion as it does strategy; going the extra mile is fulfilling when the purpose is achieved. With that, Makwetu would tell his younger self to keep following his heart and do what he is passionate about and take more chances.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Radzilani Wisdom Thivhafuni, 24

Radzilani Wisdom Thivhafuni, 24

Project manager
You are a star community youth

Some stars shine brighter than others. Their brightness is a factor of how much energy they put out and how far away they are. Thivhafuni Wisdom Radzilani started You Are a Star to give young people in Radzilani, a village in Limpopo, a space to improve their English language skills. You Are a Star is an after school programme that runs spelling bee competitions that encourage learners to to expand their vocabularies.

In the wake of South Africa’s deepening youth unemployment crisis, Radzilani hopes to empower young people by boosting their confidence. Radzilani has partnered up with Save the Children South Africa to run workshops on children’s rights, the participation of young people in the economy and reproductive health rights.You are a Star encourages young people from the community to volunteer within the organisation. This is to ensure they take ownership of their shared goals and to keep them off the streets. Radzilani hopes that through his work he can inspire young people to commit to their dreams. His motto is: “Never give up until you reach your destination.”

Limpopo plays an important role in South Africa’s mining industry, yielding coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, nickel and platinum. Radzilani — who has a diploma in mechanical engineering — wants to see young people, especially those who have grown up in mining-affected communities, playing a much bigger role in the industry.

The future he wants to see is one in which young people are given opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the country’s economy.

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Sinakekelwe Nkwanyana, 28

Sinakekelwe Nkwanyana, 28

PhD intern
Human Sciences Research Council

Sinakekelwe Nkwanyana has carved out an academic niche that she hopes may better inform how we understand masculinity in South Africa. Currently completing her PhD in public health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she dismisses the notion that men can be seen as a homogenous group — she’s chosen instead to focus on the nuances of cultural norms and learnt behaviours.

“I would like to see my work impacting behaviour change among young men, to destabilise toxic masculine behaviours and norms,” she says. “I want my work to contribute to the development of effective interventions and programmes that positively shape the sexual behaviour of young men in our country.”

Nkwanyana has had the opportunity to further pursue her research passion as a Phd intern at the Human Sciences Research Council. By exploring an area that — in many respects — is novel, she intends to produce data that is actionable and an asset to public discourse. With the gender-based violence epidemic still very much alive in South Africa, there is no disputing the value of this kind of research.

Nkwanyana’s efforts were picked up on the international stage and she was invited to present her work at a conference on decolonising men and masculinity studies at Brandon University, Canada in 2019.

Still, to this day, her proudest memory is completing her three qualifications in the shortest time possible and passing off her scrolls to her loved ones.“I will never forget the joy that it brought to my family and my community. My parents were over the moon; for me it was humbling to see their hard work and sacrifices paying off.”

Luke Feltham | mg.co.za
Siseko H Kumalo, 25

Siseko H Kumalo, 25

Academic and editor-in-chief
Journal of Decolonising Disciplines

Siseko H Kumalo does not want to live a mediocre life, so he makes sure he is not complacent. He also works to give the world the tools to do better, to care for the marginalised and to think deeply about the disenfranchised. He founded the Journal of Decolonising Disciplines, an open-access publication that aims to investigate, develop and critique decolonising strategies.

Describing the journey that brought him here, he recounts having “the strangest, but also most fulfilling experience working with the Literary Association of South Africa. The ability to read beyond my discipline has given me deeper insights into some of the questions I pose vis-a-vis the democratic project in South Africa.”

He emphasises the importance of trusting oneself. “You may be a strange character and you may be a social pariah. Walk to the beat of your own drum but never forget to be humble,” he says, because no matter how educated a person is, these characteristics remain important.

His wish is to see South Africa’s policy mirroring reality.

“My desire lies in facilitating the development of a language (a lexicography) that allows society to understand itself, such that it is best positioned to stem its bigoted, racialised and classist differentials. Making the world a better place for those who, like me, are the margins of society is what gives me the courage to wake up every morning,” says Kumalo.

He wants to see a world that ensures everyone is free.

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Sarah Madingwana, 26

Sarah Madingwana, 26

Co-founder and chief financial officer
Rudo Institute

Sarah Madingwana is the co-founder of the Rudo Institute: a non-profit higher education institution based in the Ekurhuleni-based township Daveyton. She and her partner built the institute after seeing how inaccessible tertiary education was, especially for people in the township. Formerly known as the Daveyton Book Club, which established libraries countrywide, the company has now been rebranded into the more sustainable Rudo Institute. Funding aside, community buy-in is more valuable when working in community development, Madingwana and her partner have found.

Madingwana is proud to have contributed to the validation of dreams across townships and rural areas. She says her success is rooted in the development of her community.

“I find inspiration in my community. I am based in a township. Seeing your normal Bra Joe wake every morning to catch a 5am train to work, the old lady who sells amagwinya (vetkoek) every morning to feed her family … their consistency, dedication and discipline inspires me to work harder, to dream bigger than my circumstances, but most importantly to contribute positively to the development of my community,” she says.

Madingwana hopes the Rudo Institute will be a catalyst in developing entrepreneurial leaders through business education, who will help provide solutions to community development and create societal value.

Education is important, Madingwana wants the youth to know this. She says the more educated a person is, the more informed they are, the more opportunities they glean and the better the decisions they make. Educational qualifications also lend credibility, she says.

Madingwana and her partner believe in a world in which everyone has equal access to affordable vocational, technical and higher education.

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Charmaine Maphutha, 26

Charmaine Maphutha, 26

Educator and philanthropist
Bopedi Hope Foundation

Charmaine Maphutha established Bopedi Hope Foundation with two other women and together they provide school shoes, clothing, toiletries, sanitary towels and other necessities to girls in need. Their goals include providing free sanitary towels in all public spaces.

Maphutha did a Bachelor of Education at the University of Johannesburg and she says that helps reach the school children she works with from a place of understanding. Her work at the Bopedi Hope Foundation has taught her to interact with people on a different level.

“I also learnt that poverty can be a state of mind; the children that we interact with are full of life and have dreams, despite their socioeconomic status.”

That, in turn, inspires her to be the best that she can be.

Maphutha believes that everyone deserves to live with dignity, irrespective of their financial circumstance. “We need effective rural development. I would like to see the children I work with emerge from their circumstances even though it seems difficult,” she says.

The realisation that she has the ability to be inspirational came as a surprise to her: “I always thought that my life and career were two separate spaces. But I was wrong – learners take who you are in society to heart as well. They are as motivated by my professional side as they are by behaviour — how I choose to take up space in society.”

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Anza Tshipetane, 21

Anza Tshipetane, 21

Founder and chief executive
Bright Young Leaders Initiative - BYLI

Anza Tshipetane is the founder and chief executive of the Bright Young Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit organisation founded to empower young people from disadvantaged communities. Its aim is to help them to realise their qualities and their ability to become changemakers in their communities.

Tshipetane’s organisation also aims to expose young people to different areas in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). Winners of the initiative’s Science and Innovation Challenge receive sponsorships to attend the London International Youth Science Forum, as well as the BYLI Rural School Innovation Camp, which is run in collaboration with the University of Venda.

“When I started my journey as a ‘stempreneur’ I did not expect the level of enthusiasm that I received from my students. I started a small science club that would help a few students,” Tshipetane says. “Two years later, I still receive messages from students saying that BYLI’s camps and science competitions have opened their eyes to a world of possibilities.”

For most people, focusing solely on medical studies would be a sufficient step to enacting change in the future, but Tshipetane is not one to wait, saying, “I want to see minorities represented in science across its spectrum.

“I am not only fighting to secure spaces for people like me, but to build scientists of an international calibre; individuals with the strength and skills to shut the mouths of those who speculate that Africans are not the best scientists and do not deserve a seat at the table.”

As for her message to young people, Tshipetane is all about paying it forward. “If you want to be a pioneer, a first-generation something, once you have made it look back and show others how you did it,” she says. “Let your successes, no matter how small, ripple to those around you. Because the greatest people are not remembered for how much they received and accumulated, but how many lives they touched by giving both tangible and intangible treasures.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Nosipho Mngomezulu, 32

Nosipho Mngomezulu, 32

Anthropology lecturer
University of the Witwatersrand

In her research and teaching, Nosipho Mngomezulu strives to decolonise and transform academic approaches to projects with the aim of developing methods to better equip students for the challenges of the 21st century in Africa.

As an anthropology lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mngomezulu has for the past five semesters, worked to re-imagine the epistemic legacies of anthropology. “Few students are aware of what anthropology is when they begin their studies, and many are dismayed to learn that they have historically been the objects of anthropological inquiry and feel alienated by the subject,” she says.

Once believing that she needed to figure things out alone, Mngomezulu has come to understand that this was created by the imposter syndrome, which makes people think they’re a fraud and don’t deserve their what they have and their accomplishments.

Working with community-based organisations in the Eastern Cape taught her that there is a wealth of generosity, creativity and grace, which are evident when one doesn’t have a narrow vision of what knowledge is. “The experience of working in community engagement has taught me to be a better listener … I learned a great deal from learning to listen deeply, trusting the value of my voice among other voices and understanding that there are many ways to advocate for change,” she says.

She adds that her task is to assist students to “think critically about why and how difference has come to be seen as a problem to be solved in a world that is always and already entangled and mutually dependent. Far from looking for the ‘other’ out there, it is my role to help students understand how narratives help shape how we see ourselves and other people.”

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Lehlohonolo Ntlatlapo, 26

Lehlohonolo Ntlatlapo, 26

Medical doctor
Help Me Up Foundation

Lehlohonolo Ntlatlapo is passionate about health education and youth development. He started the non-profit organisation Help Me Up Foundation as a response to the plight of disadvantaged students who struggle to get into institutions of higher learning due to lack of access to information and funding.

Coming from a poor socioeconomic background himself, he was able to further his studies through sponsorships, but knew that this possibility does not exist for all youths with similar backgrounds.

His organisation, founded in 2017, aims to close this gap by helping youth to apply to institutions of higher learning and to find funding opportunities.

Ntlatlapo is now a medical doctor and he says his proudest moment was graduating from medical school and being the first university graduate in his family. He says his career has shaped him into the person he is today. He used to be introverted, but now he’s more open and interacts more openly with people.

Ntlatlapo says: “I want to see more educated young South Africans from all backgrounds working towards improving their lives and of those around them, being leaders in whatever field or position they are in. That way we will know that our nation is in good hands.” He says his background inspires him to do what he does and he hopes people with similar backgrounds can know it’s possible. His advice to them is that things might look impossible and difficult now, but it’s not always going to be like that: “Just keep making sure that you dream big, work hard and smart on those dreams, never forgetting to pray, and keep moving forward. You will be fine.”

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Thando Mkoyi, 27

Thando Mkoyi, 27

Managing director
Eyentsatshane For the Little Ones Early Childhood Development Project

Thanduxolo Mkoyi is the managing director of Eyentsatshane For the Little Ones Early Childhood Development Project, an initiative that aims to develop child literacy in Khayelitsha. The organisation helps to develop children’s vocabularies by promoting reading, writing, puppetry and storytelling. “I would like to see every child being able to read before they get to grade four,” says Mkoyi, who believes that exposure to the power of storytelling, reading aloud and having access to storybooks in languages children understand forms a solid frame of reference that shapes their learning.

Mkoyi is also the deputy chairperson of the Literacy Association of South Africa’s Western Cape branch and has been featured in the Activate! Change Drivers Heroes book. He has written literacy papers, created training content and facilitated as a trainer across the country. Some of the children’s stories he’s written have been published by youth programme Nal’ibali and broadcast on SABC radio stations.

“I have been an ambassador for reading for enjoyment through Nal’ibali for four years and worked with the South African Book Development Council as a National Book Week ambassador and Wordathon facilitator. I helped design storytelling training materials and facilitated training for the Centre For Early Childhood Development. I have also worked closely with the Western Cape government through their programme Year Beyond,” he says, noting that these have all been incredible milestones in his career considering his own adversities growing up.

This is why, when he reflects on his younger self, he says he’d encourage himself to play more, read more, make mistakes and allow a bigger space for failure. “I’d also say ‘continue to dream big and take risks, despite your circumstances, because failure is a great teacher’. But most importantly I’d say read, read and read: fill your tank with knowledge!’”

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Dr Ndumiso Vusumuzi Mazibuko, 34

Dr Ndumiso Vusumuzi Mazibuko, 34

Senior agricultural economist

Senior agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council, Dr Ndumiso Vusumuzi Mazibuko believes patience is key to building a career you can be proud of.

Inspired by effecting the change he wants to see, one of his proudest achievements was being able to influence legislative policies that transformed the agricultural sector, promoting effective use of land and creating more household food security, especially in rural areas.

Since obtaining his PhD in Agricultural Economics, he’s played a critical role in the execution of the statutory levy system that has helped the commercial agricultural sector generate funding for research, export markets and production, turning the sector around since its deregulation in 1997. Additionally, he championed the formulation of a national infrastructure plan for agro-logistics and rural economies that formed part of the 18 Strategic Integrated Projects administered by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.

“I’m keen on incorporating science and economics in an effort to revolutionise economics and improve the living standards in a country where approximately 14.8 million people go to bed hungry and there is a lack of jobs and opportunities for youth in rural areas. I’d like to keep making a contribution to more people accessing a better life,” he says.

Mazibuko is invested in his goal to generate funding to further transform the agricultural sector and ensure that it’s competitive, sustainable and viable. “I believe that through good policies and effective implementation, the sector can play a meaningful role in addressing food security, unemployment and inequality,” he adds.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Palesa Lengolo, 33

Palesa Lengolo, 33

Finance professional and author
Palengo Holdings

Palesa Lengolo is a finance whiz and the author Stokvels: How They Can Make Your Money Work For You, which was published last year. The book looks at how investing in stokvels can boost the economy and make money for individuals. Lengolo says that writing a book was not part of her career plan, but she’s satisfied that it has added value to and is in line with her career.

With 10 years experience in the financial services sector under her belt, Lengolo founded Palengo Holdings hoping to change people’s financial lives for the better. Her interest in different businesses is why she wanted to invest in those that resonate with her. Lengolo is proud that she is able to empower others through her work. She is driven by the ambition of building a legacy for her family and future generations.

Looking back, Lengolo thinks she should have finished all her studies instead of being in a hurry to start working. It becomes difficult to balance work, studying and life. But she has learned that it’s never too late to accomplish your goals. Lengolo hopes to be part of the development of South Africa, by improving financial education. “The more financially literate people in the country, the higher the level of investment and development of our nation. This can help the nation economically.”

As advice to her younger self, Lengolo says:

“You’re on the right track, just keep going. Be brave when need be, take risks. You still have time. Put in the work, and define your own success both professionally and personally.”

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Dr Lwando Mdleleni, 31

Dr Lwando Mdleleni, 31

Researcher: social innovation and development
University of the Western Cape

Having a dream is all very well, but it’s far better to have a vision says Dr Lwando Mdleleni, a senior researcher in social innovation and development at the University of the Western Cape. With a vision you can paint a clear mental portrait of where you want to be and how to navigate to get there. Mdleleni navigated himself through university to gain a PhD in development studies. Now as an employee he’s working on innovations to improve how the university collaborates with local communities.

“Higher education institutions are being increasingly challenged to respond more directly to economic and social needs. The growing demand is for them to emerge from the detached pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and address more directly the widening array of social problems facing humanity,” he says. “We are guided by the ethos of taking the university to the communities and bringing the community to the university.”

He was one of five children raised by a single mother. Although he won a bursary, it didn’t cover all his needs and the university’s Centre for Student Support Services bailed him out.

After university he joined Bidvest as a business developer, and set up an incubation programme that focused on developing small black businesses.

He’s also a founding director of Zenzeleni, a community-owned internet service provider in Mankosi in the Eastern Cape, which provides high-speed internet access to people in economically disadvantaged areas.

He’s also concerned with finding ways to help young black women achieve equality. “South African woman are facing tragic challenges every day, from gender-based violence to discrimination,” he says. As part of his PhD he helped rural women to access various opportunities, and he’s hoping to replicate those interventions now and scale to other marginalised communities.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Zandile Mkwanazi, 29

Zandile Mkwanazi, 29

Chief executive officer and chairwoman
GirlCode

The tech industry is still male-dominated and Zandile Mkwanazi is working to increase the visibility of women in it through her nonprofit organisation, GirlCode. Combining her passions for women, technology and education, Mkwanazi helps to provide historically disadvantaged women with skills in computer literacy, coding and design. GirlCode’s mission is to create a network of women who can use those skills to create innovative and sustainable solutions where they live.

Her proudest moment is learning to say, “No” after many years of struggling to object to other people and sponsors’ ideas. Since GirlCode started in 2015, she has learned to turn away projects that do not align with the organisation and do not serve her purpose.

Her ultimate aim is to see girls and women standing equally among their male counterparts. “I want them to have the same opportunities and choices to pursue whatever career they want.”

Her work is recognised internationally and locally. In 2018 she received a social entrepreneur award from the premier of Gauteng. In the same year, the Netherlands embassy acknowledged her as one of South Africa’s top 50 inspiring women.

Her advice is that women should work to find who they are and want to do, then work hard to achieve their goals.

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Thandokazi Maseti, 30

Thandokazi Maseti, 30

Lecturer and PhD candidate
University of Johannesburg

Thandokazi Maseti says joining Wits University as one of the youngest lecturers in the department of family medicine and pursuing a career as a lecturer was a big surprise. However, what served as a bigger surprise was becoming a lecturer that was not linked to what she was formally trained in during her university years.

Maseti studied for a master’s and PhD in psychology. Getting a scholarship opportunity to study for her PhD at a university in the United States was one she received and yet lost. However, Maseti didn’t let that mistake get her down. She persisted and applied for it at a South African university and got her PhD. She has been lecturing and working as an academic in her current field for the past six years. “This was never part of my academic plan, and yet it has become the most fulfilling job I’ve ever done,” she says.

Maseti is someone who has strived to go against the odds. She says that she knows she works in a space where she is not really expected to exist. This has pushed her to success. “I want to see black women safe and happy, so I keep on waking up, doing a little to ensure we can live in a world where that is a possibility,” she says.

Maseti is passionate about furthering her own career and advancement but also those of the students and academics around her. She wants to see a transformed culture in higher education, in which young black women students and academics don’t have to deal with the struggles of belonging in academia on the basis of their gender and race. “I hope that the conversations we have on race and transforming institutional cultures lead to changed attitudes that will in turn reflect on transformed lived experiences,” she says.

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Madre Loubser, 29

Madre Loubser, 29

Youth development and education co-ordinator
Cape Town Opera

“It’s the behind-the-scenes work we don’t get to see that makes the show end in a standing ovation. Sometimes the most vital jobs aren’t those in the spotlight.”

As the youth development and education co-ordinator at Cape Town Opera, Madre Loubser understands this quiet satisfaction all too well. She’s also the Western Cape representative on the National Arts Council, a private flute teacher, ad-hoc flautist and a freelance music librarian for various productions in and around Cape Town.

It’s clear from her impressive resumé that Loubser lives and breathes music. Talents aside, it’s how much she cares and how little she takes for granted that really stand out. “Every child should sing or play a musical instrument. Music is of vital importance in the early development of children,” she says. Loubser wants to make sure the arts are recognised as an essential part of South African society, not only to inform us of our past, but also to show us how we can grow together for a brighter future. Cape Town Opera’s various outreach programmes work with schools in disadvantaged and rural communities to identify South Africa’s next generation of musical talent, and bring professional musicians to them for coaching and encouragement.

“Take every opportunity that you get,” is Loubser’s advice for those just starting out in their careers. “Even if it’s a job that no one else is interested in, as you will learn a great deal from the experience. Make sure your name is associated with adjectives such as ‘a hard worker’, ‘proactive’, ‘organised’, ‘prompt’ and ‘kind’. An education can never be taken away from you, so use your environment to its best abilities and take full advantage of what is on offer. As a woman, make sure that your experience and education can speak for themselves.”

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za
Moeletji Mapheto, 27

Moeletji Mapheto, 27

CA(SA) trainee and founder
Ga-Mphahlele Home-Coming

Moeletji Mapheto doesn’t see growing up in the rural community of Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo as a disadvantage. Instead, Mapheto sees her upbringing as filled with opportunity. “Success doesn’t mean making it out of the village,” she says. “Sometimes success is going back to the village and fixing it. It is ensuring that we lift others as we rise.”

Lifting others up is what Mapheto does best. She has taken 25 learners under her personal care. She helps them through school, builds their confidence and assists them in applying for university and jobs. Through her work with the community, Mapheto has also helped build flushing toilets for a school in need and convert a classroom into a much-needed library.

Mapheto’s Ga-Mphahlele Home-Coming initiative is a way of giving back. Through it she brings together like-minded individuals looking to find solutions to the problems faced by rural communities.

“I want the most forgotten parts of this country to be acknowledged and represented fairly and justly,” Mapheto says.

“I want the rural child … to feel seen.”

Most recently, Mapheto has helped tackle some of the crises triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Identifying the most vulnerable in Limpopo — including child-headed and low-income households — Mapheto headed up a project that fed 1 000 families and provided schools with face masks, sanitisers and sanitary pads to ensure that they could reopen safely. Mapheto’s dream is a big one: to eradicate poverty in rural communities.

“My one motivation every single morning is knowing we are well on our way to breaking generational poverty through our projects,” she says.

“We start with one child at a time, one learner at a time, one family at a time. And we ensure that their dignity is intact, because we believe that poverty alleviation starts with dignity preservation.”

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Phakiso Masooa, 24

Phakiso Masooa, 24

Director
The Mentees Ark

Masooa and his twin brother, who were raised by their taxi-driver father and stay-at-home mother, are the first and only matriculants in their family. He is also the first family member to attend university and is studying for a BA degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. “My proudest moment was when I was accepted into varsity,” Masooa says. And now he’s helping other matriculants to do the same.

Even before he began his tertiary studies in 2017 Masooa co-founded The Mentees Ark, an organisation that offers mentorship and tutoring to increase the number of learners at public schools to qualify to study at a degree level. Together with the rest of his team, Masooa has so far helped 15 learners get accepted and attend university.

With the advent of the Covid-19 lockdown, The Mentees Ark began offering WhatsApp e-learning lessons for grade 12 learners in subjects such as accounting, mathematics and maths literacy. Each class hosts more than 80 learners.

Another of Masooa’s initiatives is the Take a Kasi Kid to a Graduation Ceremony project, which does exactly what its name says: learners from township schools accompany graduates to their ceremonies, providing them with a first-hand view of one of the milestones of educational achievement.

“I want to see learners break boundaries in their lives through education. I want young learners to see education differently — [as] something that is fun, exciting and very rewarding. I want to see learners having access to funding and quality education,” Masooa says.

He believes in solutions, and his interventions in the educational arena embody this philosophy.

Theresa Mallinson | mg.co.za
Mahlogonolo Phahlamohlaka, 27

Mahlogonolo Phahlamohlaka, 27

Founder
Help Matriculate Centre

Upliftment begins with education. This is the maxim by which Mahlogonolo Phahlamohlaka lives her life and drives her career.

She is the founder of the Help Matriculate Centre, an organisation that upskills young residents in Tsimanyane Circuit, Limpopo Province. Her proudest moments in the organisation have come from hosting career days for children in rural areas who have struggled in school, and offering continued support to the learners who need it most.

In an area which teachers are notoriously underpaid and overworked, her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Since the inception of the career days, paired with coaching, mentoring, and tutoring, teachers have given good feedback in that there has been quite an improvement in the performance of the kids,” says Phahlamohlaka.

“On average, schools increased their university intake by 200% in the first two years of our launching, and schools have also improved with overall matric performance. We have schools now being able to achieve more than an 80% pass rate.”

By increasing literacy rates and instilling basic skills in learners from a young age, Phahlamohlaka believes she can facilitate job creation in the community. Her dream, in fact, is to help to create 100 jobs over the next five years.

She is certainly leading by example: she has pivoted to a number of different industries and has learned to thrive in all of them. Having started her career as a geologist, she moved on to management consulting and is now happily working in insurance.

Luke Feltham | mg.co.za
Mlamuli Nkosingphile Hlatshwayo, 29

Mlamuli Nkosingphile Hlatshwayo, 29

Lecturer
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Transformation in a country begins with transformation in the education sector, and Mlamuli Nkosingphile Hlatshwayo is involved in this.

His academic record — graduating cum laude with his master’s in social sciences and last year getting his PhD in education — has landed him at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a lecturer, where he’s making sense of and theorising the transformation challenges in the higher education system.

Hlatshwayo argues that “public and historically-white universities in South Africa continue to produce what Nat Nakasa and more recently Siseko Kumalo have referred to as the natives of nowhere”. He’s hoping to contribute to this body of knowledge to make sense of transformation and recentre Africa and the Global South when it comes to knowledge production.

His grandmother is a source of inspiration and in his work Hlatshwayo often alludes to how influenced he is by her and the sacrifices she has made to ensure the family could have a better future. His proudest moment was receiving his PhD at Rhodes University with his grandmother in attendance, explaining how her presence has allowed him to never take anything for granted and to always strive to improve.

Hlatshwayo also emphasises the value of supportive friends and colleagues in offering mentorship, guidance, opportunities and networks that helped him succeed, and hopes to do the same for others who follow him through the tertiary education system. “I truly believe that without these social capital networks of care and support, I would not be where I am today”, he says.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Wilson Tsakane Mongwe, 29

Wilson Tsakane Mongwe, 29

Front office quantitative analyst
Standard Bank

Wilson Mongwe, who is completing his PhD in artificial intelligence at the University of Johannesburg, hopes his research will further Africa’s position in the fourth industrial revolution.

“Artificial intelligence is the key that will drive innovation in the coming years. We must master it or risk being left behind,” he says.

He is a front office quantitative analyst, which means he builds mathematical models that are used by derivative traders.

Mongwe was surprised to find that there weren’t many black professionals in his field. “The derivative quantitative analyst field is dominated by white men. This made it difficult to find mentors that looked like me.”

He has set out to solve this by “serving as an example to other young black South Africans that it is possible to be successful”, he says. “I also want to mentor young people wanting to enter the field. And assist in transforming the field so that it reflects the demographics of our country.”

Ultimately, he wants to show young people that their “dreams are valid” whatever their circumstances.

“Success does not occur by osmosis, but requires hard work, dedication and consistency,’ he says. “The road that lies ahead is going to be difficult. But the hard work will all be worth it at the end.”

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Sizi Matthews Botsime, 32

Sizi Matthews Botsime, 32

Education activist
Sizi Botsime Foundation, CISE

Education activist Sizi Matthews Botsime says that he wants to see a South Africa that’s diverse in every sphere: “A society in which people look, embrace and unite in their diversity … that each person will be getting an opportunity without any bias.”

It is in his work that he strives to achieve this dream. He is the founder of the Sizi Botsime Foundation, an education initiative that focuses on empowering children living with disabilities, and their parents, while at the same time bridging the gap between abled and differently abled people and promoting inclusion for differently abled children.

Botsime was a part of the Activate Change Drivers programme and acquired the skills to empower and transform the lives of the people in where he lives. He also has a BA in psychology (Nelson Mandela University), a postgrad certificate in education (Rhodes University) and an advanced diploma in remedial education (University of Johannesburg).

Botsime says one of his proudest moments was becoming the first South African to receive the Global Teachers Award in India in 2018. Winning the award was a good moment for someone who sometimes doubted his abilities.

“Self-doubt is our greatest foe,” he says to those on a similar learning curve. “Never underestimate yourself because you are more than capable and our limits lie in our cognition.”

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za