The future looks bright for two academically gifted Maties who have each been awarded R800 000 to pursue postgraduate studies at an internationally recognised university of their choice.
The two recipients, Aphiwe Jikazana, who received the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship, and Farai Mubaiwa, who received the FirstRand Foundation Scholarship, are both off to the United Kingdom in September to start their studies at Cranfield University and King's College London, respectively.
The FirstRand Scholarships are awarded annually to students who show excellent leadership abilities, are involved in their communities, are academically gifted and have the potential to be a destiny changer.
Jikazana, a chemical engineer and alumnus of Stellenbosch University identified the application of chemical engineering to water and water waste management as a crucial requirement for ameliorating the country's long-term water supply issues. She is starting her MSc in Water and Wastewater Engineering at Cranfield University on September 26.
She says her FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship is nothing short of a miracle and evidence that faith truly moves mountains.
"Cranfield University is the only postgraduate university in the UK. It specialises in producing leaders in technology and management. Its world-renowned Water Department with state-of-the-art facilities has been in existence for over 40 years, so it was a natural fit and an easy decision for me. “
She adds that professionally, this is only the beginning. “I know that my calling is to empower the most vulnerable people of our society through education and the provision of adequate water and sanitation. Hence, my first priority is to gain as much knowledge and experience in my field as I can. Thereafter, I would like to work in communities (and possibly found an NGO) to bring about change and ensure the provision of one the most basic needs of water and sanitation. I have a passion for education so I would love to be a lecturer one day while tackling my PhD focused on the governance and legislation of water and sanitation in South Africa.
“Lastly, I see myself using my education and experience to make a difference in the public sector. I would like to work towards implementing the best policies and systems so that all South Africans will have their basic needs of clean water and sanitation met."
Her advice to young students is to remember that, where the mind goes, the man follows. "If you keep your mind fixed on the amazing plans God has for you - you are guaranteed to succeed. Negativity and complaining have never helped or solved anything. Instead, remain positive - see every challenge as an opportunity for you to grow and become a better person."
For Farai Mubaiwa this FirstRand Foundation Scholarship is truly a life-changing opportunity. “It provides me with the platform to further my studies which is something I have always dreamed about but never thought it was tangible due to exorbitant fees, and other expenses."
Mubaiwa completed her BCom (Accounting) at Stellenbosch with stellar grades and then went on to do an Honours in Management Accounting. She is starting a Master's degree in the Political Economy of Emerging Markets at King's College London in September 2017.
She says this specific Master's degree appealed to her due to the focus on emerging markets that seek to understand the basis for growth and development, the great transformation of emerging markets and market reform. “Growth is of utmost importance to not only South Africa, but Africa as a whole. South Africa is a place of political, racial, and class unrest and it is evident that young people need to steer the ship to keep the vision of a united South Africa alive. Hence, an understanding of emerging markets will ensure that inclusive economic growth can become a tangible reality," she explains.
Her advice to young people is to be their biggest fans, to surround themselves with good people and to network. "In most situations, I am my own worst enemy, but life has taught me that I need to be my biggest fan. I know my capabilities, and so when opportunities arise I need to apply. The worst that could happen when you apply is for you to be told 'we regret to inform you.' But you will never know if you do not try. Who you surround yourself with is a reflection of who you are, so I urge young students to surround themselves with people whose goals align with theirs. Align yourself with friends and mentors who will push you to do better and be better. Also you need to network. Attending events where you will meet people in different fields, positions, levels or people with different interests. Networking is powerful, and the contacts you make will always play a role in your development."
Upon the completion of her Master's, she will return to her current employer, Deloitte. "I aim to practically implement my knowledge of development policies, South Africa's positionality within BRICS, and the role that social and gender policy play in economic growth. I then want to complete my PhD, and begin lecturing. My aim is to become an academic that does not advance the stereotype of academia being this 'ivory tower' but rather one who makes tangible change, that goes beyond developing new models and sitting idle, but rather engaging with the youth and with government to position South Africa favourably with her people and with the rest of Africa."
Mr Laurie Dippenaar, FirstRand chairperson and panel member, said the panel regard themselves as fortunate to be exposed to such amazing talent. "Members of the panel were unanimous in their view that meeting and interviewing the finalists was an inspirational experience."
Pat Goss, FirstRand non-executive board member, said serving on the panel was one of the most rewarding roles he has had the privilege of playing. “The candidates have also been amongst the most extraordinarily capable and deserving bunch one could possibly hope to interview. The whole scholarship initiative ranks right up there with the more meaningful impacts FirstRand has had on society," he added.
- Applications for the 2018 FirstRand scholarship for postgraduate international study will open mid-December 2017 and close on Thursday 22 February 2018. Details and the application form will be available on the FirstRand website www.firstrand.co.za from end November 2017.
- Photo: Farai Mubaiwa and Aphiwe Jikazana.