Ms Avuyile Siphala and Nokwanda Nxumalo graduated with their Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Sciences degrees respectively, and they are only 19 years old!
Siphala, known for her strong academic background, received a certificate of recognition for outstanding performance in her modules. She was also awarded a UKZN bursary for her academic prowess and was selected as part of the University’s Student Exchange Programme. Despite being unable to accept an opportunity to study abroad due to COVID-19 restrictions, she is still proud of her achievements.
‘I am passionate about an institution like UKZN that recognises students’ hard work and provides a platform for better opportunities while teaching us about social life. UKZN is one of South Africa’s top-performing universities and I wanted to pursue my career in an institution that uses all available resources to help students reach their full potential,’ she said.
Siphala comes from Lusikisiki, a small rural village in the Eastern Cape with little to no resources, particularly internet and computers. ‘I had to adapt, learn to use email and the internet. It was difficult for me and a challenge to study online. When I first started at UKZN, I had to grapple with using technology. There were times when I would arrive for class only to find that it had been cancelled or the location had changed. Because of this, I began using and checking my email often and every morning,’ she recalled.
Siphala managed to strike a balance in her life: ‘As difficult as it was to juggle my studies with family responsibilities, I made a schedule to dedicate specific times for the two,’ she said.
Siphala was raised by her single mother and is one of four siblings. She attended Mvimvane Junior Secondary School and Toli Senior Secondary School. ‘My family have been my greatest supporters. They always encouraged me.’ She is studying towards her Honours in Psychology with the aim of helping people.
Nxumalo, who is thrilled to graduate from UKZN, dedicated her degree to her family. She hails from rural Mbazwana in uMhlabuyalingana, and is one of seven family members. At just three years old, her father suddenly died, leaving her mother to raise her single-handedly. Despite hardships, Nxumalo’s mother fully supported her academic journey.
‘I wanted to help my family and decided to follow in the footsteps of my uncle who is a UKZN alumnus. UKZN has always been my dream. My uncle always regaled us with stories of studying here and shared all his fondest memories and life lessons at UKZN. Listening to him, I knew I wanted to be part of the University. And I did! I got to know lots of amazing people from different walks of life, made special memories and learned as much as I could,’ said Nxumalo.
She even battled depression during her first year at University. ‘I would isolate myself from everyone. It was my hardest academic year. I realised that I needed to see my academic journey through not just for me, but for my family. I wasn’t going to quit and with that mindset, I beat my depression. It was freeing,’ she said.
Nxumalo is grateful to her friends and family who kept her going and supported her throughout her academic journey. She is completing her Honours in Community Development. ‘I plan on returning home and assisting our local Department of Social Development in developing our rural community. I want to inspire the youth to look beyond village life and see all the opportunities that the world has to offer them. Nothing is impossible,’ she said.