Rural Roots Spur Graduate’s Academic Growth
Mr Khayelihle Ncama, whose journey to academic success started in rural Ezinqoleni in southern KwaZulu-Natal, completed his MSc degree in Agriculture cum laude in minimum time and has published his research in the high impact Journal of Food Engineering.
A recipient of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ncama described his undergraduate years as tough. Nevertheless they instilled an inner strength and resilience, which enabled him to succeed. ‘There was a time I thought I might be aiming too high for something I couldn’t afford, but I just had to hang in there,’ he said.
From a rural area where subsistence farming is common, Ncama was used to using what came from the soil and environment at hand as direct food sources, and dreamt of one day becoming a farmer, leading him to study agriculture at UKZN, an Institution he is proud to be a part of.
His Masters studies involved work on a system that can predict the internal quality of marsh grapefruit using visible to near infrared radiation. One of his chapters dealt with the prediction of flavour quality of intact grapefruit and oranges, which could substitute the common practice of using size to determine the price of fresh citrus fruit in the market.
Coming from a disadvantaged background has inspired Ncama, especially considering the opportunities many young South Africans now have to attain an education that was denied to their parents and grandparents in the past.
‘I always think about the sacrifices older people had to make to get us these opportunities, and how we can use them to our advantage,’ said Ncama.
He encouraged other students in similar predicaments to be patient and persevere to attain their degrees.
Ncama thanked his supervisors, Dr Lembe Magwaza and Dr Samson Tesfay, for their guidance and assistance, and the friendship they formed with him. He also acknowledged the role his lecturers played as well as his high school teachers who encouraged him to believe he could get to university even when it seemed impossible.
Ncama plans to continue to PhD studies.