The 2019 graduation ceremonies of the SMU stood out as one of the most celebrated highlights in the university’s five year history due to the high number of students who obtained their degrees cum laude and overcoming of the odds.
A record of 30 students ascended the stage and were awarded their degrees with distinctions. The students were from the School of Science and Technology, the School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. The glory was not only savoured by those who obtained outstanding marks in their studies, but also by those who persevered and overcame serious physical and psychological challenges, in their studies.
Ms Tsholofelo Mtshweni, who was born with bilateral mild to profound Sensory-Neural Hearing Loss (SNHL) was one such student. She registered for a Bachelor of Speech, Language, Audiology, Pathology (BSLAP), in 2013. In her third year, she was diagnosed with SNHL. Suffering from SNHL, she experiences problems with the translation of theoretical knowledge into practice because the hearing loss worsened to an extent of affecting her speech recognition abilities. She, subsequently, lost her ability to pronounce some sounds and words properly.
Unable to pronounce some sounds and words properly as a BSLPA student was not going to augur well for her because the profession deals with hearing impairment, language, speech and articulation disorders. So, the lecturers intervened and convinced her and her parents to discontinue BSLAP studies and register afresh for Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm). Her heart was broken as she had to start all over again. With the love of her family, the mentorship of Ms Lindi Zikalala, her lecturer and support of friends, she persisted and completed her B.Pharm degree in 2019.
The other graduate who experienced psychological challenges was Dr Sandile Ndlovu. Having completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in record time, he registered at SMU for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), in 2001. In the course of his MBChB studies, he suffered from a depressive illness and consequently discontinued his studies. Having spent some time on treatment, he obtained a medical clearance which was a mandatory requirement for him to be readmitted to continue with his studies. He was ably mentored by Prof. Pindile Mntla, Head of the Department of Cardiology and Ms Angie Malope, the Academic Coordinator, who was his social and emotional mentor. Ndlovu completed his studies and graduated in 2019.
Dr Ananias Kgopa, a Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, established a Tissue-Culture and Molecular Biology Laboratory for Honours, Masters and PhD students, at SMU. Dr Kgopa built the laboratory anew as the university did not have one. The Laboratory focuses on Cancer and Diabetes research, using tissue culture to explore the impact of traditional medicine on the management of Diabetes and Cancer.