Dr Lukhanyo Mekuto. Picture: Supplied.

Cape Town - From his humble beginnings as the child of a domestic worker, Dr Lukhanyo Mekuto has against all odds achieved being one of the youngest PhD graduates at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. 

Mekuto graduated as a Doctor of Engineering: Chemical, with his research revolving around the biological treatment of industrial wastewater generated by gold mines. 

His interest was piqued when he read about cattle deaths in KwaZulu-Natal due to cyanide poisoning in 2012. 

And the day before he received his PhD, Mekuto was awarded the prestigious Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Originally from Brown’s Farm, Philippi, Mekuto, 28, is the only child of a domestic worker and the first one in his family to not only obtain his postgraduate degree, but also his undergraduate degree. 

He arrived at university in 2008 and obtained his BTech in Biotechnology in 2011. He then went on to complete his MTech cum laude in 2014, in record time, before going on to complete his doctorate, also in record time.

Speaking on his extraordinary achievement, Mekuto said this was a testament that there was no excuse to give up on your dreams.

“I have come through the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) system. NSFAS paid for my BTech up to my PhD, so in my view, [lack of] funding is no excuse.”

Mekuto also offered youngsters, who want to excel in their respective fields, some advice on how to succeed, saying they needed to determine who they are and what they want. 

“Distinguish yourself from others. The mistake we in the township make is that we want to go with the crowd. I decided in grade 10 that I was not going to do that anymore.

“I tell learners: "define who you are and what you want. Once you’ve done that you have to make a conscious decision to go after what it is that you want,’” explains Mekuto.