Ntobeko Mchunu beat the odds to achieve his dream of graduating with a PhD in Bioresources Systems from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Photo: UKZN
Ntobeko Mchunu beat the odds to achieve his dream of graduating with a PhD in Bioresources Systems from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Photo: UKZN

KZN man beats odds to graduate with a PhD

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Oct 30, 2020

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Ntobeko Mchunu beat the odds to achieve his dream of graduating with a PhD in Bioresources Systems from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Mchunu, who hails from Tafuleni location in Pietermaritzburg, is one of 1 781 graduands who’ll be honoured at the University’s virtual Spring Graduation ceremony on Friday.

The Biorecource System PhD graduate said he found it extremely difficult to transition from his life in a rural community to the university environment.

This challenge resulted in him failing his first year. Despite this, he persevered and went on to complete his undergraduate degree in record time and with extra credits.

“In my home, school (Bhekuximba High School) and community there is no one else who has ever graduated with a BSc (Bachelor of Science degree) let alone a doctorate,” he said.

Among the struggles his faced in his first year,; was the exposure to laboratories, computers and the internet.

“I lacked self-confidence and thought that universities were not for people who came from rural areas.

“Looking at myself and my background, I thought that I would never measure up to the standard and quality of education required at UKZN.

“However, I was wrong and after receiving support from the University – most notably from Dr Colin Southway who was a lecturer in chemistry and dean’s assistant during those years – things started to change for me and I found that the content and practical aspects of tertiary studies aligned well with my natural curiosity.

“From then on, I thrived,” he said.

Mchunu’s PhD research is based on developing an aquaponics model and decision-making tool to kick-start aquaponics production in South Africa.

“I am thankful to academics such as Professor Albert Modi and Professor Michael Savage who shared a wealth of academic knowledge with me and equipped me with the most diverse skills and expertise in agriculture, crop and soil sciences, agrometeorology, food security and agricultural engineering,” said Mchunu.

Currently, Mchunu managers at the global humanitarian development organisation, InMed, where he oversees the roll-out of aquaponic systems across South Africa through their Adaptive Agriculture Programme, in order to improve food security and nutrition, and reduce poverty.

He also owns City of Choice Aquaponics, a private company that designs, installs and services aquaponics systems.

Watch the graduation ceremony here between 10am and 2pm.

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