Rural KZN Student Tops Dental Therapy Class and Graduates Cum Laude
Mr Njabulo Nhlenyama (23) was congratulated by family, friends, and proud residents of the Mbazwana community in Umkhanyakude District in northern KwaZulu-Natal when he topped UKZN’s Dental Therapy class and graduated cum laude.
Nhlenyama had always dreamed of doing matric and going on to study at a university but with his parents struggling to make ends meet, the chance of that ever happening had seemed highly unlikely.
However, after winning a scholarship from the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF) - run by UKZN’s Dr Andrew Ross - Nhlenyama was able to enroll for a Dental Therapy degree at the University.
‘Coming from Mbazwana, I knew nothing about Durban and I had never used a laptop or a computer,’ said Nhlenyama. ‘At university, hand written assignments aren’t accepted so this was a big challenge for me.’
Nhlenyama said people in his community in Mbazwana were not very concerned about dental care. ‘If someone suffers from tooth decay they seldom consider going for treatment. The dentist at our nearest hospital does not speak isiZulu so it is difficult for him to discuss with local people the importance of maintaining good oral health and raise awareness about the risk that comes with oral health negligence.’
This spurred Nhlenyama on to enroll for a Dental Therapy degree. ‘My aim was to assist the local dentist and address the importance of dental care and health related effects. I chose UKZN because everyone I consulted regarding dental therapy told me UKZN is the best in dental therapist training. I now know this is true!’
In 2012, Nhlenyama was named as the Best Student in the field of Dentistry and in 2014 he scored the highest mark in Minor Oral Sugary, receiving the Best Overall Student Award for his final year. In 2014 he was a recipient of UKZN’s Undergraduate Scholarship for good academic results in 2013
‘I can’t believe I am graduating. I’m very happy and wish to say thank you to all those who played a role in my progress,’ he said.
‘My personal goal is to keep reaching for greater heights, thus improving the living standard of my family and community as a whole.’
Nhlenyama said he was happy to be working at Mosvold Hospital as a Dental Therapist after successfully completing his degree. He said he now dreams of becoming a maxillofacial surgeon and believes God will help him achieve that goal