07 June 2021

Since 2020, the University of Mpumalanga has offered four Master’s and two Honours programmes. In 2021, approximately 86 students will be enrolled in one of five Master’s and four Honours programmes. During these first six and-a-half years, a number of very talented students have studied at and graduated from UMP and some of these have the potential to make a meaningful contribution to higher education in South Africa.

The Academic Talent Stewardship Programme (ATSP) will target such students and offer them a carefully crafted development programme that will see them complete a Master’s degree or make substantial progress towards completing doctoral studies and participate in a series of workshops that will prepare them for a place in academia at UMP.

Moses Zakhele Sithole is currently doing a Master’s in Agriculture. He is an ATSP Fellow and Associate Lecturer in the FANS and in the School of Agricultural Sciences.

“Being part of the ATSP is a dream come true. I can actually see my dreams becoming a reality. I’m honoured and humbled. It also means that UMP has trained a quality individual which it saw fit to retain in the system. The very product of the university recognized and absorbed into the system as an academic, is really a wonderful experience. I believe that the ATSP is my stepping-stone towards becoming a professional academic. I’m hoping to develop my academic talent and to become an effective and efficient professional.

I’d like to become a renowned professor in my field. I want to learn and develop as an academic, and grow to make an impact in society, within South Africa and across boarders. I intend to do my Doctoral studies from 2022 – 2023, followed by postdoctoral studies. I aim to improve my academic talent by attending academic conferences and workshops and by working closely with every human resource at doctoral and professorial level so that I may learn from them. I want to advance myself in all possible ways and become one of the greatest assets at UMP and within the Higher Education and Training Sector. I want to be a researcher who writes to make an impact in the society and contributes to the creation of knowledge in the sector.

The appointment as an Associate Lecturer is within the Agricultural Extension Discipline. Furthermore, this position entails tutoring and lecturing as well as mentoring first year students within the University. As part of my developmental programme, the position affords me a golden opportunity to grow and develop as a strong and professional. I am so grateful that I am not lost, but am home, in a space to grow and advance in academia.

I am currently working on my Master’s degree and am hoping to finish in July 2021. I am to prepare a research paper and it is required of me to have a paper published before I graduate. As soon as I am done with data collection, which I am working on now, I will then prepare a research paper and publish it with an accredited journal.”


Confidence Ndlovu graduated towards an Honours in Development Studies and currently submitted her Master’s dissertation for Master of Development Studies qualification. Ndlovu is waiting for her results and will graduation soon.

“Being appointed to be part of the ATSP programme means that as an aspiring Doctor of Philosophy I have been provided an opportunity that paves my academic career towards achieving that specific goal. This opportunity also means that I must continue working hard to ensure that I represent myself and the University of Mpumalanga well.

I have been afforded a platform to motivate and inspire students in UMP, and I have been given the opportunity to change the narrative about education in the rural areas where I come from by showing young people who look up to me what is possible. I have been appointed to be part of the first cohort of the academic talent stewardship programme and an associate lecturer in the school of development studies. This is a three-year programme of academic, intellectual, psycho-social, and personal development established to prepare UMP students for future careers in academia.

I am expected to be in involved and develop adequate skills in Research, Teaching and Learning and contribute to the society through community engagement. The expectation from this programme is that as an ATSP fellow I will become a permanent lecturer at UMP after the 3 years. I have been allocated a personal mentor (Dr Masuku) whose responsibility it is to support me in identifying and participating on appropriate teaching and learning, research, and engagement opportunities.

My plan is to adopt vast teaching techniques from readily available professors and doctors in the institution because I believe they produce the best graduates. I would love to incorporate or encourage media teaching and learning methods, where students identify the best platforms that suit their needs.

I am working on my review paper from my Master’s dissertation titled: The Effectiveness of Agricultural cooperatives towards enhancing food security in rural areas, to be submitted to a peer reviewed journal. Together with my supervisor/mentor Dr Masuku we plan to publish even more articles moving forward.”


Mokoni Kenneth Maduna holds a Diploma in Agriculture (Plant Production), and will be graduating with an Advanced Diploma in Agricultural Production Management this year.

“This opportunity is life changing and has given my life even more direction. I have always wanted to be an academic, but I did not know where to begin. This is now a stepping-stone towards me obtaining my long-term goal which is obtaining my PhD and becoming a researcher. Being in this programme will expose me to motivated people who have walked the same academic journey as me and therefore I will be surrounded by mentors who will carry me through the journey until I reach my academic goal.

I am currently busy with my research, which my supervisor and I are hoping to publish after completion. I want to be the best researcher possible. To do that, I have set primary goals for myself, I would like a position that challenges me; where I can continue to grow and develop as an Academic. I would like to be a positive influence in the lives of students at both the cognitive and affective level. I would like to include the community in the expansion of my career.

Based on what I have learned so far, I believe the University of Mpumalanga offers me the best opportunity to accomplish these goals. I would hope to be here for many years – growing, learning, and contributing right alongside students and the research industry.”


Hlengiwe Patronella Zulu, a Master’s degree student within the School of Development Studies says her career is about to change for the better.

“Being part of this programme will give me the platform to share information and knowledge that I have acquired over the years. I will also get to learn from the students that I will interact with over the teaching sessions. I am excited about learning and acquiring knowledge from other academic staff members that have been dominating the academic space. The knowledge that they will pass down to me will elevate my career and give me a push in the right direction.

My biggest goal now is to finish my Master’s degree. I also want to publish various chapters from my Masters’ dissertation that will contribute to the existing body of knowledge. I would like to partner with different academic staff members from the field of development studies and other disciplines within the institution for research purposes.

The focus of my Masters’ dissertation is on the participation of rural households in water provision. The research paper that I will publish will be based on one of the objectives that I have on my dissertation. The paper will be informed by the objective of identifying the nature of rural households’ participation in water provision. It will be on the different categories of participation that community members tend to belong to when they get involved in water projects and programmes. The paper will be informed by different literature that has been reviewed on issues of community participation and engagement in water provision. Furthermore, the paper would include data that was collected from community members and key informants from Tjakastad that are involved in water provision.

I am looking forward to doing international research collaborations. I want to work with different authors from international countries in writing research papers and books. I want to continue with my education by enrolling for doctoral studies and serve as an inspiration to other students that education is still the tool that can be used to change the world."


Thabang Mashiloane Associate lecturer in the school of Agricultural Sciences under the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

“My career plans align closely with the objectives of the ATSP. I have applied for enrolment into the MSc in Agricultural Sciences with an Animal Nutrition specialization (2021 – 2022). Under the supervision of Prof Victor Mlambo, I have developed my research proposal for the MSc degree, which was reviewed and recommended for NRF funding by the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. Notably, I have now been awarded the NRF scholarship for my MSc Masters. Moreover, upon completion of my MSc studies, I plan to study for a PhD, because I believe that knowledge and wisdom are the biggest drivers for success.

During my postgraduate studies, it is my intention to acquire teaching and other skills that are required to succeed as a researcher and university teacher. Moreover, last year in 2020 UMP published an article with the title “Meet the student who aspires to be UMP’S Vice Chancellor”. I believe the ATSP fellow programme will further advance my aspiration as I am now mentored by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso.

My research will focus on fish nutrition and is entitled: Black Mulberry fruit powder as a potential nutraceutical source for Dusky kob (Argyrosomus japonicus): Physiological and tissue nutrient response. I will carry out my feeding trials at the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Marine Research Aquarium in Cape Town.

Significantly, this study will make meaningful contributions towards the production of healthy, safe, and high-quality functional food (fish) to meet the demands of a world population that is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Therefore, my proposed MSc study will generate information that will help in the design of economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable food production systems."


Precious Leutle is a Master's candidate at the Nelson Mandela University. She graduated at UMP with a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology.

“This programme is of paramount importance to my professional goals and career objectives because it will help me gain the skills, knowledge and expertise required for a successful career in academia. It will grant me the opportunity to pursue the goal of bettering and uplifting the quality of life and economic emancipation of society through lecturing and engaging in research.

Since I will be guided by prominent lecturers and professors, gaining expert knowledge and in the process develop leaderships that come with being a lecturer and researcher. I will learn and improve on existing teaching methods and strategies that make teaching and learning interactive. I will be starting my career on such a great foundation will ensure that I am equipped with most if not all the skills that are required to become an excellent lecturer and researcher.

I am in an environment that nurtures and develops potential and talent, which will ensure that I remain relevant and competent for the academia field. I will learn, grow and develop at an exponential rate as compared to those who had to learn as they go rather than following a programme that structured by prominent professors and doctors. My career will impart significance from the knowledge I will gain from this programme. A career that does not impart significance would be a career that would not be fulfilling for me at all.

I want to make a meaningful contribution to higher education in South Africa and make a difference in people’s lives by imparting them with knowledge that I have also gained from other researchers and professors. Currently, I am a Master's candidate and my topic focuses on digitization in SMMEs, my goal is to finish my qualification and publish an article or journal upon completion of my dissertation. I wish to pursue a PhD degree upon completion of my Master's degree and I want to focus on one of the components of 4IR in education and publish several articles and journals as well.

Upon completion of my PhD, I aspire to become a professor with the aim of publishing several articles and journals, co-supervising and supervising other students to also reach the same level as mine and beyond possibly. I also wish to work with prominent professors and collaborate with them to publish articles and journals that will contribute to improving or solving problems in my area of expertise and others expertise and continue learning and developing in my professorship.”

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto.