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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

SA universities best for international students

Aune Angobe was born in Ongongo village in the Omusati region in Namibia. She was raised by her grandparents who have now both passed away.

Angobe studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and will graduate with her Master of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology cum laude on 19 July – achieving over 95% for her course. 

I was privileged to have grandparents who knew the value of education. I attended primary and secondary school in the northern part of the country under their tender care.

“Throughout my schooling journey I’d always enjoyed science subjects, and I have no doubt that I was a scientist from birth,” said Angobe.

Adding that despite her poor family background, she studied hard and matriculated with good grades.

In 2013, Angobe was granted admission to the University of Namibia for an honour’s degree programme in microbiology. She was funded by a government loan.

Growing up in rural Namibia, Angobe had never used a computer before she enrolled at university.

Even prior to her master’s studies at UCT, she said she had never travelled south of Windhoek.

READ: UCT’s Executive MBA programme is still number one in Africa

Excitingly, I got news of admission to UCT from Associate Professor Inga Hitzeroth, a potential project supervisor for my MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology.

“My MSc research focused on developing a plant‑made diagnostic reagent for the detection of Porcine circovirus (PCV) antibodies in South African swine herds,” she said.

Angobe said she chose this focus specifically because pigs are a main contributor to the economy, especially in Southern Africa.

She said for years, pork production has been facing significant losses because of PCV.

Angobe added that her study aimed at producing a cheaper diagnostic reagent for use in a rapid diagnostic kit, which will potentially help local farmers to diagnose their pigs earlier.

South African institutions consistently make up the majority of all those “best universities in Africa” lists. South Africa is the economic hub of the African continent. International students choosing to study in South Africa will have a number of social and academic opportunities wherever they study in the country and most local universities have active international academic offices.

But there were challenges.

READ: Nzimande on student debt, financial exclusions and infrastructure backlogs

Angobe said one of her biggest challenges was funding.

She said she remembered clearly that when she arrived in Cape Town,  she did not have funds to cater for her accommodation and living expenses.

She only had R500.

“I was accommodated by a friend in a residence where I stayed for about two weeks. During this period, my supervisor, my friend and I were constantly worried about how I was going to survive.

“We then decided to approach Student Housing.

“I went there and cried my lungs out to them. I clearly remember the officer asking me how I had left Namibia without knowing where I was going to stay,” she said.

“My response was, ‘I don’t know, but I just want to study’,” she said.

Adding that Student Housing eventually granted her accommodation.

Angobe said soon after this, her supervisor introduced her to the Aunt Vivien of the Cohen Scholarship Trust.

She said another challenge in addition to funding was being in a foreign country.

“It was not an easy transition. I always felt like an outsider, and I struggled to overcome the language barrier.

“Also being far from my support system, especially my family and friends, I really felt the gap,” she said.

However, she said she also found a way to create a support system away from home and that the Biopharming Research Unit became her family.

“They all played an important role in my achievement, and I am thankful to all of them.

“I would like to thank the Biopharming Research Unit, the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation, the Sam Cohen Scholarship Trust, and the MCB department for financial assistance towards my studies,” she said.

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