She was poor and in ill health, and suffered a minor stroke as a teenager.
“When my father was asked by my teachers to change my school in the village for a better school in the urban areas, he would always question them, and would ask, ‘What is so special about this kid that I should waste my money and take her to urban schools?’ So I had to tolerate financial restraint throughout my academic journey while working towards my big dreams,” she said.
The 26-year-old scientist, who is studying for a PhD in agriculture and animal science at Fort Hare University, was taken by science at an early age, and says her dream to pursue it as a career was inspired by her school teachers.
Fast forward to this year, and Soji is to jet off in June to attend one of the most prestigious science conferences - the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Lindau, Germany.
The annual gathering, to be held from June 24 to 29, brings Nobel Laureates and young scientists together to foster scientific exchange between generations and cultures. Soji is one of six young female South African scientists nominated to attend the event by the Academy of Science of South Africa.
She will be leaving with fellow scientists Dr Eileen Thomas from Stellenbosch University; Edith Phalane from North-West University; Blessing Ahiante from North-West University; Dr Bianca Verlinden from the University of Pretoria; and Shireen Mentor from the University of the Western Cape.
Soji, whose research involves finding ways to improve meat production, said: “I am so overwhelmed by this opportunity.
"Our past does not determine our future. Live your dreams and don’t forget to uplift others... because the world has to remember you for the legacy you leave behind when you die.”