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Mandela Rhodes scholar wants to be a teacher so he can influence young people

Thabo Mohlala

It is very unusual for most young people to decide, with a measure of confidence, what career they will pursue after they complete their high school education. Some wait until they finish grade 12 while others choose when they are at tertiary level.

But this was not the case with Mkululi Nompumza, he knew early on in his high school career that he was cut out to be a teacher. Teaching is regarded as a calling and attracts very few young people, making Nompumza one of the rare crop of young people pursuing the profession because they are passionate about it.

“I always knew that I would follow teaching; I never doubted it. Actually, I knew early on in high school. I think the inspiration came from my former teacher, Benita Carelse. What she revealed to me was the influence that a teacher continues to have even beyond the classroom space,” said Nompumza.

In 2014 he enrolled for his education degree at Stellenbosch University where he is currently doing his fourth -year.

“Not only did I want to work with people but I also wanted to influence them. Teaching provided me that platform or an avenue through which I could fulfil this wish. I wanted to restore dignity to this noble profession,” said Nompumza, adding that he is also passionate about leadership.

At Stellenbosch University he used every opportunity to excel and his hard work paid off when early last month he received two Rector’s Awards for his outstanding academic achievement. One accolade was for excellent leadership and the other one was for excellent service delivery.

“I’m feeling very honoured because I think these awards say that we recognise your efforts, your leadership in this space and your contribution, he said after receiving the awards. He displayed leadership on campus and in 2015/16 he was elected the chairperson of the Education Student Committee. Nompumza was also instrumental in designing and implementing a short course in ‘Leadership in Education’. For the past two years, he coordinated the course presented by the Faculty of Education in collaboration with the Frederik van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development.

Hardly a month after he received the two accolades, Nompumza received another enviable award: the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarship aims to promote and “build exceptional leadership capacity in Africa by providing excellent educational and training opportunities to individual Africans with leadership potential”, among others. The leadership development programme is delivered primarily through a series of residential workshops.

Said a humbled by Nompumza: “I am honoured to be a part of the 2018 class of Mandela Rhodes scholars,” said MK. “I feel that being awarded this scholarship, out of many other young African leaders, gives me an opportunity to reflect upon my leadership journey to date; and it inspires me to continue leading the change that I want to see.”

He recently went abroad to attend an international summer school at Humboldt University in Berlin and was also involved with a partnership research project on planning and policy for bi- and multilingual schools.

Nompumza plans to pursue an honours degree in Education Development and Democracy in 2018. But what drives this intelligent young man? “It is people; helping, working and being around people motivates,” said Nompumza, who relaxes by reading [African] literature books and also taking part in wine-tasting activities.

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