Meet 14-year-old Mongiwa Ntuli, an actuarial science student who has begun her academic journey at the University of Pretoria (UP) with the financial support of the institution.
Having passed Grade 12 with seven distinctions, she was frustrated that because of her age, she could not apply for a bursary. However, thanks to help from UP, she is able to pursue her dream.
Ntuli started school at an early age, having been enrolled for Grade 1 at the age of four.
“When I was in grade three, my teacher indicated that I would do better in grade five. After attending a few classes, he recommended that I skip grade six and go to grade seven, but my guardians were against me being promoted to upper grades. They decided that I should follow the sequence of grades,” she said.
After scoring top marks in grade 12, the Gauteng teen shared her frustration at not being considered for a bursary because of her age.
She said being turned down was frustrating because she believed that she had done her part by working hard and achieving good results.
"All I needed was financial assistance. I had a conversation with the Vice-Chancellor at UP, who ensured that I was granted funding. I will forever be grateful for that," she said.
UP will cover Ntuli’s tuition fees, study material and other expenses.
Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said one of the University’s strategic goals is access and success, especially for learners who have done well.
"Mongiwa fits everything that the University wants to promote. UP is a place of excellence and achievement: we aim to attract learners with distinctions from across the world," Kupe said.
Unsurprisingly, making the leap from high school to tertiary education has been challenging for Ntuli.
“Transitioning to university and adjusting is a bit difficult, with Covid-19 playing a role. Not being able to attend physical classes means I had to learn how to use a computer fully. Also, at high school, we got one-on-one time with teachers, but here it is different. The best trick is to use what you have to the best of your ability,” she said.
She stated that choosing to study at UP was an easy decision because she wanted to be associated with a prestigious university.
“At first, I wanted to study medicine, but everything changed when I read up about actuarial science and realised that this profession is about problem-solving, which defines me,” she explained.
“Actuarial science is about collecting complicated data and giving it out in its simplest forms. It is about maths, and I enjoy maths because it is precise and perfect. This course combines my love for maths, statistics and finance. If I can combine all of that and get one profession, why not actuarial science?” she said.
Ntuli's uncle, Lifa Nkala, said they are grateful that she was able to get funding.
“These are tough times, but when someone opens their pockets this wide and is willing to assist a stranger, it means a lot to us. Thank you, Prof Kupe, for coming through for us.”
Ntuli hopes to obtain her qualification in record time and eventually study towards a PhD. Her ultimate goal is to be an employer and create jobs.
Ntuli advises students who would like to enter the field of actuarial science to prepare themselves for the work ahead.
“This profession and course comes with a whole lot of responsibilities and sacrifices. One needs to be focused to be in this field, because there will be fails and sleepless nights,” she said.