BSc Honours Graduate Overcomes Challenges to Achieve her Goals
Ms Sinothando Mtolo graduated with a BSc Honours degree in Chemistry after overcoming challenges that included a lack of funds and an unexpected pregnancy, turning apparent obstacles into triumphs – and collecting accolades along the way.
Mtolo attended Huba High School in Richmond, an under-resourced institution where she developed an interest in Chemistry. She credited her high school teacher Mr Akinrogunde for encouraging her in the subject.
‘I found it amazing that you can mix two chemicals together and get a completely different product, and always discover something new in every reaction,’ said Mtolo.
Her curiosity was piqued by investigations into how medicines, fertilisers and fabrics were synthesised, as it became clear how much in her surroundings was linked to Chemistry.
Mtolo had to overcome a lack of funds in her first year, having to register late and wait for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). In second year, she fell pregnant, a normally joyful event that in her circumstances came with anxiety and other new challenges. This affected Mtolo’s results negatively but strengthened her resolve to prove to herself, her infant son and her family that a seemingly insurmountable obstacle would not scupper her academic career.
Mtolo obtained four certificates of merit and a Dean’s Commendation in her third year and awards for being the top third year and Honours student in Chemistry on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
Mtolo balances parenthood and her studies, ensuring that she is home to see her son each weekend no matter what deadlines are approaching, and studying late at night once he is asleep.
Motolo is now completing her masters under the supervision of Dr Precious Mahlambi from UKZN and Dr Lawrence Madikizela of the Durban University of Technology (DUT). She is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society, a supplemental Instruction (SI) leader for first year Chemistry and demonstrator for Chemistry practicals. She said she found UKZN an exciting place to study as she was always challenged to do her best and stay focused. She chose the Institution because of its status as a top university.
Mtolo credited her mother, family and her son for motivating her to do better, as she worked hard to make them proud. She said her classmates who walked the journey with her shared in her success.
‘It is important for me to have my siblings and the community know it’s possible to make your mark, even if you come from a disadvantaged background,’ said Mtolo.
Mtolo’s success has fulfilled her adolescent dreams and confirmed her attitude that one should use mistakes to learn and to build resilience. She encouraged other students to do the same, not to hide behind fear but to attempt things that seem impossible. Mtolo said her faith in God had helped her through.
Mtolo is considering going on to do her PhD or finding employment in the water treatment industry.