Lockdown Level 2 was announced earlier in August, significantly in the month we celebrate and acknowledge the resilience, tenacity, courage, adaptability, determination, faith and triumphs of women.
These great attributes need to be important pointers for all the members of the UMP community as we navigate our pioneering journey, "Luhambo lwemhlahlandela", and the unchartered territory brought about by COVID-19.
We have to continue taking greater care, not to drop guard and become complacent. We need to continuously take care of the self, and thereby protect others. COVID-19 has highlighted our interdependence and interconnectedness. Let us continue to communicate and to encourage one another to keep on keeping on. The cooperation and togetherness among UMP staff and students has been incredible to witness during these trying times.
The behaviour and performance of students who are already back on campus has been remarkable and exemplary. Equally so has been the those who have been representing UMP on virtual platforms at various events. Do read more on the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education Intervarsity event and the two students who have held our institution's name high.
I am pleased to share that on 18 August 2020, UMP received 300 laptops from the Robert Gumede Family Keni Foundation and Gijima, a partner of the university. This donation will allow many more of our students to benefit from online teaching and learning.
As we prepare to welcome more staff and students, let us remain careful, courageous and yet confident that the light will pierce the dark, and respite for humanity will ensue. We should derive fortitude from our brave efforts and the mental strength we have shown since the start of the lockdown.
With resilience engendered anew in all of us during this Women's Month, no task shall be too great to overcome and nothing will seem impossible. If you don't believe me, just read our feature on four students who have just graduated despite the immense challenges life has thrown their way. Still we rise!
Professor Thoko Mayekiso
“The women who defied the apartheid laws and marched to Pretoria on 09 August 1956 are celebrated today as their story and courage continue to inspire us. Their resilience is powerfully captured in that powerful saying: Wathinta Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo," said Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso, during the virtual Women’s Month celebrations hosted on UMP You Tube channel.
The national theme for this year's celebration was Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future, which fit in well with UMP’s own theme: Engender Resilience. The meaning was best encapsulated by the host, Vice Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso when she explained: "Resilience is about rising above all odds. Women are extraordinarily resilient in even the most dire circumstances, rising above adversity to create powerful networks for change and to bring meaning to their lives and the lives of others.”
Professor Mayekiso encouraged women to never give up despite the many challenges. “As women, we must not be our own worst enemies by pulling one another down. On the contrary, instead of being trapped in the ‘first and only woman bubble’, we need to mentor and to coach young and upcoming women so that their paths become easier. We should set programmes in place to ensure that the road becomes more manageable. Equality, justice and fairness should always guide our efforts.”
Secretary to the Director of Research Management, Cynthia Moshaba shared powerful words about accepting and loving who you are as a woman.
“There are plenty difficult obstacles that cross every woman’s path – be it family, children, or career – but you should not be one of them. Be You because that is the most original being you can ever be. The world can always adjust to who you are, and even more so if you are content with who you are. Be willing to walk alone because not every journey requires friends, followers or spectators. Be kind to yourself and to others, you will need the same kindness at some point. A woman can never fail, she either wins or she learns. We make mistakes because we often make decisions. Your own mistakes are your best lessons.”
She continued, “Never blame others for your failures because you should know that your fate is in your hands. Be fearless and not afraid of storms because it is in the storms that we find our true strength. Women, you are stronger than you realise, you are more capable than you know, so embrace your strength, make your mark, occupy the space and be fearless!”
Director of Student Housing, Dr Nomvula Twaise, gave a wonderful message focussing on women from and within the management perspective.
“My message focuses on women aspiring to climb the ladder and become senior and executive managers. When engendering resilience, you take note of many aspects women are going through; of the obstacles that surround them and prevent them from kicking down the thick walls of patriarchy. Women’s participation in the workplace has increased, but this does not translate into an increased number of women at senior and executive levels.”
“Out of 26 universities in South Africa we are only represented by four female Vice-Chancellors. This picture has two narratives: One, a reason to celebrate as we are finally being represented, and on the other hand, it shows us that we are nowhere near achieving at least 50% representation. I am sure that these women here have had a great share of obstacles on their way up and may still be going through tough times one way or another in those positions.”
She also highlighted the importance of pulling each other up and not dragging each other down. “Those women up there need all the support they can get from us, they do not need our bashing, gossiping, or name calling. Let us support our female leaders. When we do so, we are building our support base to also move up. The next generation of women who have learned from this generation that women who go up must be pulled down will do the same to their peers and it becomes a vicious cycle. Women aspiring to go up the ladder, please, learn to ‘Own your story’, don’t be shy, walk your own walk and start your ‘journey of becoming’. Find female mentors to mentor you.”
Head of Schools Development Studies and Arts Professor, Estelle Boshoff, spoke on why resilience is important during these times of great uncertainty, and how women can engender resilience in themselves and others.
“Resilience enables us to fight discrimination, to believe and trust ourselves, and to stick together as women and build a better, peaceful future for all. Resilience helps us as women to unconditionally accept ourselves and others, and to feel loved and cared for amongst our sisters. Resilient women possess a vision for themselves that cannot come true without the force of their will and with the power of their imagination.
A resilient woman maintains a hopeful outlook, she visualizes what she wants rather than worrying about what she fears, and finds the silver lining by looking for the good in every situation. A resilient woman stays in the present moment, removes herself from adversity and conserves her inner energy.”
Speaking on behalf of all female general workers at UMP, Khanyisile Mahlangu said: “Women of Africa, you are more beautiful than you realise, stronger than you know, more powerful than you could imagine. Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live. The things women have yet to learn is that nobody gives you power, you just take it. The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible! Don't worry about what people say or think, be yourself. Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself, so be a first-rate version of you rather than a second-rate version of someone else!”
Former SRC recreation officer, Sharon Mlambo, encouraged with her words on being self-reliant and resilient.“Belief in yourself needs to be realistic to be helpful. Remember the challenges in the past that you have met successfully, and also those that were met with less success. You can learn from both experiences. Giving up is always the easy way out. Resilient people demonstrate the ability to stick to things and get them done. Without a sense of your purpose in life, you lack a driving force.”
Sharon concluded with the beautiful poem, Still I Rise, by the late and great activist, Maya Angelou.
@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @Chrisplphoto
The University of Mpumalanga’s dream to continue with online learning and save the academic year became a reality when the institution received a donation of 300 laptops from leading Information and Communications Technology company, Gijima Group Limited, and The Robert Gumede Family Keni Foundation.
The laptops were donated to students who are not beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Founded six years ago, the university has over 5 000 students, many of whom are beneficiaries of NSFAS. The donation follows the announcement by Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, that all NSFAS beneficiary students would receive laptops and data to ensure they can continue with online classes during the national lockdown.
However, with some students not qualifying for the scheme and not having the financial means to afford all studying equipment needed, Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso reached out to Gijima Chairman, Mr Robert Gumede, requesting a donation of laptops to assist non-NSFAS funded students. Speaking at the handover ceremony held at UMP’s Mbombela Campus, Professor Mayekiso, was extremely grateful towards Mr Gumede for coming to the rescue during a time of great need.
“When the country was placed under lockdown all campus-based activities were suspended while at the same time there were calls for #NoStudentShouldBeLeftBehind and #SaveTheAcardemicYear. We had to switch to online teaching and learning without any advance warning.”
Fortunately, online teaching and learning has been part of the university’s teaching strategy since its inception in 2016. “We’ve always considered ourselves a 21st century institution; in fact, we embrace technology. Innovation is at the core of our beliefs. We embarked on online teaching and learning on 20 April fully aware of the challenges experienced by our students in terms of access to data and the availability of devices,” she added.
“Despite these challenges, our students responded positively and were participating actively. At the end of April the Minister of Higher Education, Honourable Dr Blade Nzimande, announced that all NSFAS-funded students would receive laptops and data to ensure they can attend online classes during the lockdown. This posed a challenge to us since we wanted all students without devices to be assisted.”
At UMP, 88% of students are funded by NSFAS while others have sponsors who have provided them with laptops, for example the Vice-Chancellors Scholarship. When the university was doing their research they discovered that there are about 320 students who require laptops. The Vice-Chancellor said priority will be given to students who are still studying from home as those who are back on campus have access to computer labs.
Student Representative Council President, Comfort Msimango acknowledged the hard work and dedication the university had put into making the donations a reality.
“My deepest sense of appreciation goes to Gijima, Mr Gumede and UMP staff members for their cooperation and for providing us with academic support during this difficult time. We are fortunate to be backed by proactive and dedicated men and women. I am short of words for their involvement and their willingness to take on the completion of tasks and ensuring that the academic year is saved! A special mention to our respected Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso for being the catalyst that stimulates us to do our best; she is a pillar of strength. I’d also like to thank our dedicated lecturers for their untiring efforts to keep the train moving.”
Chief Marketing Officer at Gijima, Ms Roberta Gumede, said the company and the Kena Foundation would like to help the University bridge the gap and assist more students.
“We’d like to help the University of Mpumalanga build more inspiring leaders in our beautiful province. We hope that one day some of the students who will be receiving laptops today, will assist other students in the future. In that way it makes this donation a lifetime contribution from Gijima and the Foundation,” she added.
“The Robert Gumede Family Keni Foundation and Gijima feel it is imperative that the ‘missing middle’ is assisted to ensure that more students receive a fair and equal opportunity to complete their studies. We believe that education is power, and the key to success.”
The University of Mpumalanga has over the years established a collaborative relationship with Gijima. The Chairman of Gijima, Mr Robert Gumede was one of the first people who spearheaded and provided funding for the establishment of the first university in Mpumalanga
Gijima is also sponsoring the Academic Excellence Award in ICT, which includes a one-year internship. The first recipient of the award, Ms Precious Leutle is currently doing her internship with Gijima. The Keni Foundation, which is a foundation under the Guma Group, was instrumental in the establishment of a partnership between the University of Mpumalanga and Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA. One of UMP’s emerging academics, Dr Inam Yekwayo spent three months at Harvard University as a visiting scholar in 2019.
@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto
In celebration of Women’s Month, HERS-SA is sharing stories of women in leadership to motivate and uplift others. Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso is also profiled alongside other inspirational women. In this article she lets us in on the journey that led her to be where she is today.
This article draws primarily from my experience at the four higher education institutions in which I had the privilege to occupy both as an academic and academic leadership positions. Departing from my positionality as an African woman and informed my experiences in leadership in the higher education sector over the last three decades at the following institutions:
These four institutions have different institutional histories and have contributed in different ways to my academic and leadership development. In addition, training received in Clinical Psychology has been a great enabler in the development of my career. Exposure to courses of empowerment like the HERS-SA Academy, stood me in good stead, as has been the exposure of studying and working in Germany and Great Britain. A coalescence of research skills, clinical practice, and leading at the executive level have given one unique insight, not only about the organization themselves but about the people in these organizations.
Every leadership journey starts somewhere. In my case grandparents and parents who were Educators/teachers led my way. The foundations of my leadership journey, therefore, can be traced back to my childhood. My parents, from an early age, inculcated in me the love for reading and the value of discipline at completing tasks that one undertakes.
When I was 13 years old, my father made the following observation, “You are a girl of great determination”. His words became indelibly etched in my heart and mind. I keep reminding myself in my leadership journey, that I am a woman of determination. This helps me to navigate any leadership challenges I am confronted with. I believe determination is the driving force towards excellence and, in order to work consistently and tirelessly at something, one needs perseverance.
The privilege of starting a new University has been a source of positive energy and motivation for me as the Vice-Chancellor. I am grateful to the University Council for the confidence they bestowed upon me for this critical role and for granting me a second term of office in this capacity. One of the lessons learnt is that being a Vice-Chancellor is a bruising job, and one is never prepared for the personal attacks one experiences in discharging one’s duties.
In a society that still suffers from patriarchy and toxic masculinities, leadership does pose serious challenges for female leaders. The single most important lesson is that leadership is not for the faint of heart and more so in a university. From my teacher parents, I would often hear them quote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.
Now, one fully understands and appreciates this proverb. Contesting constituents and competing interests muddy the waters. Being firm and standing on principles makes one to have many adversaries. Saying ‘’NO’’ on good account, and valid reasons make one to be erroneously regarded as hogging power and being arrogant.
The cumulative experiences garnered, have however left me with a sense of satisfaction, tranquillity, equanimity and gratitude. Knowing that I have played my part, not only by leading to the best of my ability – but by replicating others who are ready to take the baton, and take us into the future, gives me solace. One could not have hoped for a better trajectory than the one I have traversed to date.
I remain forever indebted to my parents, and grandparents for mapping and leading the journey. A debt of gratitude is owed to the many students and colleagues, past and present, whose paths crossed.
There is no job that can bring more joy and satisfaction, that can positively impact so many, and that leaves one with a sense of having done a good job than being a Vice-Chancellor. Yes, it is a difficult job but it is also one that is unbelievably rewarding. It brings enormous frustration and joy. It will take all your energy and time, but when one walks away, and walk away one will, it should come with a sense that, yes, “we did pretty well”. At the end of the day, it is about leaving the position of Vice-Chancellor knowing that the institution is better than it was when one started one’s term.
@ The article is republished from HERS-SA Higher Education on Linkedin. HERS-SA is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement and leadership of women in Higher Education.
The University of Mpumalanga plays an active role to conscientise its community on the issue of Gender-based violence. As GBV cases increases, UMP students took it upon themselves to hold an online awareness campaign, which most joined from different provinces around the country.
The online march organised by third-year Bachelor in Commerce student Masego Maseko, started small and became a huge success with more students from different provinces joining in to create awareness against Gender-based violence.
Maseko says it was painful for her to watch the news on TV and see yet another women dying at the hands of their lovers. “For me, it was a wakeup call that this is real and it can happen to anyone. It is hard to know that our fellow sisters and mothers are dying out there.”
She started thinking of ways to engage other students so that it can be many voices crying to be heard.
“I wondered how we can play our part in curbing this violence to make sure that our children will be born into a safer generation, ia generation where they can trust males and feel safe around them. I remembered that we have a society from our university, which we can be platforms that can encourage UMP students to do their part as well.”
Maseko and other students decided to start a group chat to ascertain how many people would be interested. She says the response was overwhelming and it gave them the urge to continue with their awareness plan. The groups on social media platforms were briefed about goals and objectives.
“Given the fact that everyone is at home, prohibited from meeting and lived far from each other, we decided to use social media. We encouraged people to mobilise their contacts to do the same using the hashtags #EnoughIsEnough #silenceIsCompliance’ and #StopKillingUs’.”
The students did videos and some took pictures showing them take a stand against gender-based violence.
"The awareness gained momentum and more students joined the movement. Even the university societies. became part of this campaign. The UMP choir sang a beautiful, meaningful song about GBV and Boys to Men sent video messages and demonstrated with artefacts,” explains Maseko.
One of the students who got a remarkable reaction on social media platforms was Thando The Poet who recited a beautiful SiSwati poem about stopping the killing, raping and abuse of women and children. Another student Thabang Mashiloane joined the movement because he wanted play his part in raising GBV awareness.
“It might not be something big but victims will know that they are not alone. We are trying our best to end the wrong. Also those that think to raise their hands on women and children might help solve problems,” he says. Maseko further says that the group will continue with the awareness. “No one deserves to be killed no matter what they have done. We are playing a role, no matter how small it may seem we want to be able to say we did something about it. Because history gets made every single day.”
The institution has always strived to create a safe space for staff and students by launching a organisations such as Sister Sister and Safe Spaces to help curb on-campus gender-based violence and to create awareness surrounding issues pertaining to gender on campus.
@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.
In August we acknowledge the power and strength of women. We celebrate their achievements and the outstanding work that they do. This month we profile three young UMP emerging researchers that are doing extraordinary work in their fields of speciality. Dr Inam Yekwayo, a lecturer in Nature Conservation, Dr Julia Giddy who teaches four undergraduates courses in geography and conservation and Dr Rachel Nishimwe-Niyimbanira share their research projects.
Dr Julia Giddy is currently involved in teaching four undergraduate courses in geography and conservation, and the and supervision of Work Integrated Learning projects. She believes research must be innovative, and, especially within the South African context, that applied research is crucial.
“My research background is relatively diverse. Research for my masters and PhD focused on investigating the human-environment relationship in the context of nature-based adventure tourism. It looks at the role of the natural environment in the different stages of adventure tourism participation, from planning to experiences to subsequent impacts. This has been integrated into a human-environment interaction theoretical framework which I adapted based on the empirical results.
Nature-based tourism is at the core of international tourism in Southern Africa and therefore needs to be investigated from a number of different angles. Prior to this work the majority of research on nature-based tourism in the region focused on environmental impacts and broad consumer-based research rather than holistic integrative environmental sociology. Therefore, my research is an important contribution to the discipline. I have since expanded my research efforts on adventure tourism and have begun to look at it from different angles. The first was to expand the theoretical understanding of adventure tourism, which resulted in a publication on the commodification of adventure tourism due to the growing increase in commercialization of the industry. In addition, I have begun to explore employment in adventure tourism from a sustainable human resource management perspective, from which two publications have emerged, one published and one in-press.
This body of work is significant due to the serious safety concerns surrounding adventure tourism and significance of adventure guides in ensuring visitor safety, particularly in the commercialized context. In addition, I have looked at broad adventure tourism development in Southern Africa and across the continent delving into some of the challenges to adventure tourism which are particular to the African context. During the first year of my post-PhD work at the University of Johannesburg, I joined a research team which was working on integrating the interplay between tourism, climate and weather. I completed three projects on the influence of weather on tourism in South Africa. The first was on international tourists’ perception of weather while visiting South Africa.
The second focused on the supply perspective and integrated my expertise on adventure tourism, by examining the impact of extreme weather patterns on the white-water rafting industry in South Africa. The third one analyzed the perceptions of participants in the 2017 Cape Town Cycle Tour which was cancelled due to extreme winds. The increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events in Southern Africa has become apparent in recent years and this research demonstrated the significant impacts these changes in weather patterns are having on the tourism and events sectors. My more recent work has focused on the tourism-poverty nexus, analysing aspects such as perceptions surrounding slum tourism, issues surrounding tourism employment and the role of the emerging gig economy in the context of travel and tourism in Southern Africa.
The platform economy has, undoubtedly, transformed the way travel and tourism operate throughout the world. A great deal of work has been done on the impacts of the gig economy though it is largely limited to countries of the Global North. My research seeks to expand this body of work to the Global South by focusing on Southern Africa. I have also conducted research on inner city walking tours in Johannesburg using a slum tourism theoretical approach. This study interrogated some of the ethical concerns surrounding these types of tours as well as the motivations of tourists engaging in guided inner city walking tours. Although a great deal of research has concentrated on poverty tourism in the context of slums, there is a gap in work which focuses on inner city neighbourhoods of relative poverty where tourism has recently emerged.
Dr Inam Yekwayo is a lecturer in Nature Conservation in the School of Biology and Environmental Sciences. She has a passion for teaching and learning but is fascinated by research. To date, she has published eight papers in
peer-reviewed journals, including Insect Conservation and Diversity, Biodiversity and Conservation, PLOS One, Oecologia and African Journal of Ecology.
“To be able to conduct research, you need funding. In 2017 I applied and received funding from UMP and the National Research Foundation (NRF) for Research Development Grants for nGAP scholars. Currently, I am a grant holder of the Competitive Support for Unrated Researchers from NRF (2019 to 2021). I have been recognized and nominated to perform different activities in the science community. For example, I have reviewed manuscripts for journals and examined an MSc thesis. I have reviewed abstracts for conferences, for example, the 2019 Zoological Society of Southern Africa conference. In addition I have reviewed research proposals submitted for NRF funding.
My research interest is in conservation ecology of terrestrial ecosystems. My research aims to improve conservation of arthropods (for example, ants, spiders, beetles, millipedes, cockroaches and scorpions). I have studied arthropods in different biomes of South Africa such as grassland, savanna, forest and fynbos. I have also worked in disturbed habitat types like pine, gum-tree and subtropical-fruit plantations. Conservation of arthropods has direct and indirect positive impacts on the community.
Farming provides the food for many people in our country. Crop plants cannot produce food without pollination. Of all the pollinating agents, arthropods (for example, bees, beetles, butterflies, wasps and flies) are major pollinators that play an important role in the ecosystems. Additionally, arthropods maintain the healthy and fertile state of the soil through processes like decomposition and nutrient cycling. Arthropods like dung beetles keep our environment clean. Breaking down of dead plant material by arthropod, such as millipedes contribute towards cycling of nutrients, which improves the fertility of the soil and improve the crop growth and yield.
Arthropods serve as biological control agents in agricultural ecosystems. Arthropods like spiders, ants and ladybirds are natural enemies of many agricultural pests that affect crop yields negatively. Additionally, some arthropods, including certain beetle species are used to control alien plants like water hyacinth. All the reasons above emphasise the importance of studying the interaction of arthropods with their specific habitats and habitats in close proximity.
To strengthen my research, I am collaborating with colleagues from different institutions, such as Stellenbosch University, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, KwaZulu-Natal Museum and Agricultural Research Council. To help me grow in my career, I’ve invested in the development of others and am supervising two and co-supervising three BSc Agriculture honours students and two MSc students. These postgraduate students are working on arthropod diversity in agricultural crops, pristine and disturbed savanna vegetation.”
Dr Rachel Nishimwe-Niyimbanira, an Economics Lecturer at UMP, has published nine article, seven of which have been in accredited journals. In line with this month’s celebration of women, Dr Nishimwe-Niyimbanira shares findings of one of her recent research papers: Gender Dynamics in Employment and Labour Force Trends in South Africa,
co-authored with Dr Thandekile Sabela.
“The world made collective commitments to reduce the gender gap in the labour force and agreed on a set of key principles to improve the quality of women’s employment. Despite some progress in recent years, the gender gaps in labour market participation remains large in South Africa. Culture, tradition, norms and stereotypes have always contributed to the gender division of labour. Women often assume much more of the household and care responsibilities which inhibit their ability and opportunity to participate in the labour market. Women are also generally in charge of the reproductive role which involves performance of household duties and caring for children, disabled and elderly in the household.
Through a gender-based comparative analysis of the information on labour force, employment, and unemployment trends in South Africa, covering the period from 2010 to 2016, it was revealed that women were more likely than men to be unemployed or underemployed in South Africa. Women’s share of the total informal workforce is higher than men’s share. In South Africa, estimates indicate that elementary occupations, clerical and domestic work were the major sources of employment for women. Though women are emerging in the so-called highest paid occupational groups classified as managers, professionals and technicians, the percentage of management occupation is more than twice as high for men as for women.
This could indicate that females remain poorly represented in decision-making positions with males continuing to lead management positions. Therefore, traditional beliefs and cultural attitudes regarding the role and position of females in society are still coarse. Every minute more that a woman devotes to unpaid work denotes one minute less that she could be possibly using on market-oriented activities. Time spent cooking, cleaning and care-providing for children, the sick and the elderly forms part of unpaid work which principally contributes toward the world of strong families, societies, and nations. Such domestic work has been labelled as ‘the work that makes all other work possible’. Time is an extremely valuable and limited resource.
Women take up flexible working time arrangements that may ease the combination of these duties, and therefore, supply fewer hours of market work than males. Flexible work often does carry a penalty in lower wages, fewer promotions, a lower probability of full-time employment and lower access to social security benefits. Eventually, almost everyone will need to take time off from work to deal with personal or family circumstances. However, more women than men continue to be concentrated in jobs that do not offer paid leave and paid sick leave, and a higher share among employed women work with verbal agreement with their employers compared to the percentage among men.
The gender gap in employment, occupation and sector translates into limited access to employment-related social protection among females. In the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report involving 144 countries, the World Economic Forum indicated that the most challenging gender gap with a widening tendency continues to be in the economic sphere and it will now not be closed for another 217. While empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report clearly indicates that closing the economic gender gap in the near future is still a mirage. Efforts need to be made in enabling environment towards women’s economic empowerment including schooling for all girls and boys.”
@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.
Two UMP students have made it to the finals of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) second annual national Entrepreneurship Intervarsity.
Mondli Mathonsi and Thandeka Mahlangu competed against other students from 26 universities at the virtual EDHE Lekgotla 2020 under the theme: African Entrepreneurship through Technology #AfroTech.
The competition provides opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs in the ideation phase to pitch their innovative business ideas. In the process, universities had the opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial talent and demonstrate ways in which they support and grow the next generation of business leaders.
The Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) is a Division of Universities South Africa (USAf) that is responsible for entrepreneurship development in South African Higher Education Institutions. This year because of the national lockdown, the competition was held virtual.
In 2018/2019 EDHE introduced the EDHE Intervarsity competition to allow university students to compete in four categories: Business Idea, Existing Technology business, Existing Social Impact Business and Existing business – General. Second year student Mahlangu competed in the Existing Business: General Category. She presented the Ndeka’s Desserts, her company which makes and sells desserts.
“When I entered the competition I had nothing to lose. Only to get an email a few months later that I was short listed. By this time I had forgotten about it and was surprised. When I did the video in the inter varsity rounds I had no idea what I was doing but one thing for sure I know my business so I threw many pictures of my products together and I followed the guidelines and made it through.
“I started to be curious about the competition when I made it to the next round. I still don't know what's up for grabs but I'm sure that it's a lot of money. My dream is to win and open a dessert bar. Now for the regional rounds I have to step up my game,” says the Bachelor of Education (BEd) Foundation Phase Teaching student.
The Business Idea Category was won by Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) student Mondli Mathonsi for his Planet First, a company that turns plastic into petrol, diesel, and grease depending on their composition through a process called plastic pyrolysis.
“Being in the finals is reassuring because I feel like I am on the right path and people like my idea. I am happy to be competing at the highest level, it is an opportunity for my ideas to be recognised and enhance my business journey. I didn’t know that my idea was new and first of its kind I was actually surprised when I saw that I won the business idea category," said Mathonsi.
The EDHE Intervarsity competition started in November 2019 and UMP had 34 entrants. Only 17 of the 34 participants qualified to proceed to the Intervarsity Competition Internal Round. A total of 8 from the 17 participants made it to the next phase, the Regional Competition, where the Region comprised of 3 universities: the University of Mpumalanga, the University of Venda and the University of Limpopo
Mathonsi and Mahlangu's win means they will proceed to represent UMP in the 2020 Intervarsity Competition Finals to be held November.
From losing a parent a few months before final exams; being raised by a domestic worker; being the first in the family to graduate; to having a hearing disability, the class of 2020 reveal heart-warming stories of triumph and defying the odds.
Reginah Mdhluvu is the first in her family to graduate.
This is a milestone for her since her grandparents never went to school and her parents did not finish their matric. "I’m forever grateful for the support my family has shown me throughout my studies. I am also the first generation of UMP students to have a virtual graduation. My journey at this magnificent university has been filled with memorable experiences.”
Life has not always been a bed of roses for Mdhluvu as she did encounter both positive and negative experiences during her first year at UMP.
“I’m naturally thin and have had to survive being body-shamed by my peers. It was not easy but I managed to rise above it. I survived and grew from the experience and become a tough young woman,” she adds. It was only after she joined UMP ENACTUS that she regained her confidence fully. “Being in the group played a significant role in my journey of self-acceptance and embracing my individuality. In my second year of study I began to have more fun and even worked harder to improve my marks. Things have been smooth sailing since then.”
Mdhluvu is currently doing her Masters in Science of Agriculture at UMP.
Nicholas Mnyambo lost his mom a few months before his final year exams.
He says it was the most difficult time of his life as he had to keep it together while trying not to fall apart.
“My mom had spent her life making sure I had a bright future. Losing her was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I was very disturbed. My dream was that she would be sitting next to me on my graduation day. So I had to keep it together to make sure my final exams were a success.”
Mnyambo’s journey at the University of Mpumalanga began in 2016 when he registered for a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. He says his experiences at UMP have been amazing.
“I am still discovering all the opportunities that the university has to offer. UMP is a very welcoming place; from the first day I felt at home. I can't believe how much I've learned,” he adds. “Studying at UMP was so much fun and graduating was one of the best feelings of accomplishment. I enjoyed university life, especially the interaction with other students, the debates, questions and just listening to experienced lecturers sharing their knowledge and expertise. My lecturers were amazing and provided excellent mentoring.”
Currently a Masters student, Mnyambo says the university has supported him in all his initiatives. “UMP helped me get to where I am now and where I'll be going in the future. I’m eternally grateful to be honouring my mother’s memory and her dream for me. All she wanted was for me to start school at tertiary level. I dedicate my Honours degree to my wonderful and precious Mom. My HERO.”
Thandoluhle Ndlovu was raised by a domestic worker who had big dreams for him.
“My mom has always been my role model throughout and always will be,” says Ndlovu. Her mother worked as a domestic worker and saved up so she could provide a tertiary education for him.
“It was her dream to see me go to varsity and graduate. Most people didn’t believe that her dream would ever come true but she managed. She’d come up to me and say, ‘Luhle you can be anything. I am not a failure therefore not by any chance I can give birth to one.’”
Ndlovu says today she’s a graduate because of those assuring and encouraging words. “Her guidance stuck with me and her words would strike me every time I came across challenges.”
The last year of my degree was a very challenging year for me because I was admitted to hospital twice, the last time just before my final exams. I managed to pass because my mom and best friend never left my side. She has been my rock, my strength and mostly definitely my role model.
Rumani Muneiwa suffered from hearing loss which left her almost deaf.
She struggled to hear lectures at university but did not let her disability prevent her from pursuing her dreams. “What an achievement! On the 9th of July 2020, a day before turning 21, I graduated in Agricultural Plant Production. Dealing with my hearing disability was not easy, but I did it!”
Muneiwa was in matric when she had an ear infection that left her with a hearing disability but she did not let that stop her from pursuing her goal of studying Agriculture at the University of Mpumalanga. During her first year at university, Muneiwa was using hearing aids because her one ear had become completely deaf.
“I struggled to hear lecturers in the auditorium but I never gave up. I worked hard, studied hard and passed. And here I am today, pursuing my studies in Agricultural Post Harvest and Technology.”
Today she is healed and no longer has a hearing disability. “I am happy and grateful that I’ve been healed. I never gave up, and I thank God for allowing me to keep the faith. I’d encourage any person who wants to reach their destiny to keep on and never give up on their dreams, pray and tell God what you need.”
@ Stories by Cleopatra Makhaga and Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.
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