Student Helps Organise Masks for UKZN Community
Masks in UKZN colours at a specially discounted price is what a young student is organising for members of the University community.
The student, Mr Sibonelo Mhlongo of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, is working through his mother’s small clothing manufacturing business in rural KwaZulu-Natal to arrange for the production and supply of about 15 000 fabric masks at a discounted rate before staff and students return to campus.
Mhlongo, a third-year student studying Applied Mathematics and Statistics, is originally from Mtubatuba where his mother, Ms Tholakele Ncube, has run her business, Sojikile, for the past three years.
During his vacations, Mhlongo assists the staff of about six with the manufacturing of clothing orders.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Mhlongo says his mother’s business has suffered as orders for bespoke outfits for weddings and church events have all but dried up.
After the chairperson of Universities South Africa Professor Sibongile Muthwa announced that university students would probably need to be physically on campus for the completion of practicals, exams and, in some instances, internships, Mhlongo began thinking about how he could contribute to helping protect people on campus from the killer virus.
When UKZN issued a challenge to students to come up with ideas to enable teaching and learning to resume under pandemic conditions, Mhlongo and his family thought of making masks in UKZN colours, as the business had been manufacturing the facial wear for the local community and essential workers.
‘I am part of the UKZN family, so I really wanted to help make a difference in these tough and unpredictable times,’ said Mhlongo, who hopes to complete his degree this semester.
‘It has been a struggle for my parents to support me financially, so I was keen on something that would hopefully benefit everyone in the end, including UKZN getting quality, washable, reusable masks,’ he said.
Working on a possibility that the University will re-open later this month, Mhlongo estimated that the informal business, which makes more than 3 500 masks weekly, could recruit extra labour and produce the 15 000 polyester masks within a few days.
So now, it’s full steam ahead!
Words: Christine Cuenod