(Article by Amber Viviers)
The Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU) is proud to have again attracted some of the top matriculants from all over the country that joined the faculty this year. The ten learners from various provinces all achieved above 85% in their National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.
As public schools, their alma maters are classified into five groups, called quintiles, for the allocation of financial resources (quintile 5 being the most resourced and quintile 1 the least resourced).
Here they share why they decided to study at SU, what they’re looking forward to, and how they plan on addressing challenges that might occur this year:
Lithemba Somta from Ulwazi High School (quintile 3) matriculated in 2021 but decided to take a gap year. “This year, I will grab onto my studies and never let go again,” he says. He considers SU to be the best university in South Africa. “I aspire to become an inventor one day, someone who will solve the world’s biggest and most stubborn issues with logic and reason.”
Not one to shy away from challenges, Kian Claassen from Grey High School (quintile 5) decided to pursue Mechanical Engineering. “Everything I’ve heard tells me that university is a completely different ball game to high school. However, I think school taught me a strong work ethic, which I feel will translate well into university,” he says.
Not one but two top learners matriculated from Hans Kekana High School (quintile 1). Keabetswe Molapo says she enjoyed mathematics and physics at school and thus decided to study a degree where she can apply that. Her goal this year will be to prepare for tests and examinations while she still has time. “Study as early as possible. Trying is so much better than giving up,” she says.
Former classmate Brown Kenalepe loves problem-solving. “I’m interested in dealing with the manufacturing and operation of machinery.” On dealing with the challenges that his undergraduate studies might bring, he says it is more important to study smart than hard. “There’s nothing like a stupid question, so I must ask every question that comes to my mind.”
Tshepiso Mphuthi from Greenfields Secondary School (quintile 2) says the university made him feel welcome before officially becoming a student. “They eased everything about registering, arrival and adjusting to university life.”
To adjust to his new town and the engineering workload, he plans to follow this motto a teacher once told him: “One must begin with the end in mind. Whatever you want or wish for at the end will determine how hard you must work now and what decisions you need to take to reach your end goal.”
Former Langalakhe High pupil Sphesihle Mdumseni Ngcobo (quintile 3) says SU is a world-renowned university and one of the leading universities in Africa when it comes to engineering. “I chose data engineering because I thought it would give me the skill and knowledge needed to solve problems in this technology-oriented era. But, he adds: “The biggest challenge will be learning huge amounts of work in the shortest time possible and keeping up with everything related to my studies.”
Seeking to experience living in a new region and being exposed to new cultures, Xivono Shikwambana from Meridian College decided to move away from home to get exposed to a new lifestyle. She chose engineering because it’s a discipline that’s always in demand and has a variety of career opportunities. “Engineering is not like a nine-to-five job. It’s a hands-on career where you don’t do the same thing every day and are given opportunities to travel to different places for certain projects.”
Naphtal Ramawa from Mbilwi Secondary School (quintile 4) is also looking forward to the student town’s diversity. “I chose SU, though I was accepted at other institutions, because of the great variety of race, culture and tradition that I would come across,” he says.
For Simone Anna-Mart Louw, who came second overall amongst quintile 5 schools in South Africa, SU was an obvious choice as both her parents and siblings studied here. The Eikestad (“Oak City”) is also not strange to her – she matriculated from Bloemhof Girls’ High School.
“SU has the most beautiful campus and wins hands-down in the fun and social environment. As an adrenaline junky and adventure enthusiast, the nearby mountains, ocean and hiking routes won my heart.”
She learned two important lessons during her high school career. “You can be the smartest person in the room and be lonely without meaningful relationships. In 2022 I realised that balance, and playing as hard as you work, is vital to success,” she adds.
Fellow Capetonian Amy Mia Felix from De Kuilen High School (quintile 5) says she did not choose SU, “SU chose me”. After a few setbacks, she was offered the option to study electrical & electronic engineering. “And here I am. Despite how it all played out, I truly believe I found my place.”
She says the initial disappointment has helped her become her own biggest supporter. “This was crucial because it allowed me to keep myself motivated and my head high when my spirits were low. Now in university, I am forced to be more independent than ever, but I do not doubt my ability to make it through this next chapter of my life.”
These students have shared their aspirations for the upcoming year, and it is clear that they are all dedicated to make the most of their university experience. We wish them the best of luck and hope that they will make the most of the opportunities that Stellenbosch University has to offer.
(left to right) Lithemba Somta, Tshepiso Mphuthi, Keabetswe Molapo, Xivono Shikwambana, Prof Wikus van Niekerk (Dean: Faculty of Engineering), Kian Claassen, Brown Kenalepe, Amy Felix and Simone Louw.
(Naphtal Ramawa and Sphesihle Ngcobo weren’t present when the group photo was taken.)