Durban - Growing up in a community where university is regarded a luxury, a 23-year-old Chatsworth youth said he was grateful for the sacrifices made for his education.
Warren Naidoo recently graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) honours degree at UKZN and took the top honours award for applied mathematics, beating every obstacle laid before him.
He also received the prestigious 2016 GI Bateman award for the best third-year mathematics student.
Naidoo gave credit to his parents for supporting a career choice many thought lacked opportunity.
He said they ensured he fulfilled his dreams despite their financial struggle.
“I was brought up the hard way. I remember a time when my dad had to sell steel wool for R2 a bag at the side of the road just to pay the bills."
"But they always believed in me and never gave up on our dreams."
"Even though we didn’t have much, they made sure our education did not suffer.”
He said many friends and family members laughed at him for wanting to be a scientist.
“People often told me that it’s not a field where I could make money."
"They often chuckled when I told them what I was studying. Not that I blame them. The need for scientists in South Africa is something few understand.”
Naidoo matriculated at Asoka Secondary School and was later awarded the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bursary through the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Research Unit (Acru) to pursue a BSc degree at UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.
However, Naidoo wasn’t always good at maths.
“There were times when I brought home my report card, and it had red rings around my mathematics marks. But, I pushed myself, and I’m here today because of my determination to be better.”
Naidoo believes that with 90% determination and 10% ability anyone can turn their dreams into a reality.
His dream is to become a research scientist.
He has always been fascinated by astrophysics and astronomy-related fields, as well as mathematics and its applications.
Naidoo is currently doing his Master of Science (MSc) degree in cosmology, which involves cutting-edge scientific research.
His future plans are to pursue a PhD, and ultimately, continue with research as an academic at a university or research institution.
However, despite the typical stereotype of scientists, Naidoo said he was not the typical ‘nerd’.
“I love jamming to music on my guitar, and I love to sketch.”
His advice to others in financially difficult circumstances is to never give up on their dreams and “to do what you are passionate about”.
“My dreams always seemed too big for me. I always had doubts about achieving them.
“I thought about the money and my ability to get there. But I changed my attitude, and my passion drove me. That is something that makes me proud, to hold my head up. I never gave up.”
His father, Percy, said he was proud of his son.
“He has truly become an inspiration to many other young people in our community. Many students come to Warren for advice, and it is evident that these students gain confidence that they can reach their goals in life. I know he will make all his dreams come true and continue to make us proud and amazed.”