It is not how you start out but where you end up – this is the lesson first-generation student Agnes Molebatsi had to learn on her higher education journey at Stellenbosch University (SU). But, thankfully for her, it was a lesson which was made much more bearable through her participation in the university's SciMathUS university preparation programme.
The SciMathUS programme gives high school learners who have already passed Grade 12 but do not qualify for higher education selection a second opportunity to improve their National Senior Certificate (NSC) results in mathematics, physical sciences and accounting. This will enable them to re-apply for university programmes.
Molebatsi started life in the small town of Khutsong in Carletonville in the Gauteng province.
“In our town the top careers that were highly esteemed and deemed significant by the community were engineering, medicine, law and teaching. So, growing up my aspirations were centred around those career fields as well as my choices of study. But my matric marks did not qualify me to get into medicine or engineering, and because of my Christian background I chose to study something related to youth ministry (B.Th. Youth work) at SU. But in 2015, during an SU open day, I discovered animal science farming and became passionate about the possibility of finding new ways to farm sustainably and new technology that can be adopted to help feed our growing population. Right there I knew that this is what I wanted to do."
She decided to change her course but the obstacle was her matric marks which did not meet the minimum requirements for her to embark on the BSc Agri (Animal Science) programme that she wanted to study. It was then that she encountered the SciMathUS programme and managed to enrol in the class of 2015.
“My SciMathUs journey was not an easy one. I struggled a lot because the NSC syllabus had changed the previous year so I had to start from scratch to learn some mathematical concepts. But the lecturers were patient with me, and they encouraged me to book extra sessions to help me understand the concepts. I persevered and was able to improve my physical science and mathematics marks and to obtain admission to the BSc Animal Science course."
Molebatsi is currently studying towards a MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and plans to one day start her own poultry farming business where she would be able to transfer the skills she learnt from SU to her community.
“My aim is to improve livelihoods through the science of sustainable farming, to help small-scale farmers to increase production and to increase their efficiency in an environmentally friendly manner."
But for the moment she is ploughing back into the SciMathUS community as a SciMathUS mentor.
“I was fortunate enough to be appointed as a mentor and can now share my experiences with the current SciMathUS students. Just to be in a position to inspire those who are on the path that I walked, is fulfilling. One day when I am financially stable, I would love to become one of the donors who keep the programme running and who impact so many lives for the better."