30 November 2023

The panel featured former UMP students, now Associate Lecturers, including the Former and First Female SRC President (2020) Vuyelwa Magagula, Confidence Ndlovu, Moses Sithole, and Thabang Mashiloane. They shared their journeys from admission to UMP to becoming ATSP Fellows and Associate Lecturers at the University.

Confidence Ndlovu, an ATSP Fellow and Associate Lecturer in the School of Development Studies at UMP, is the first Master's graduate and is currently pursuing a PhD in Development Studies. Reflecting on her UMP journey, Ndlovu expressed gratitude for the transformative Vice-Chancellor Scholarship, providing financial security and a sense of belonging. Despite initially aspiring to be an accountant, she embraced destiny, choosing development studies to fulfil her father's vision of being the first graduate in their village.

UMPThe panel discussion was engaging and inspiring.

“The VC scholarship provided financial security and opened doors to leadership training, inspiring my passion for academia,” she highlighted.

Taking full advantage of UMP's opportunities, Ndlovu's journey included trips to the UK, personal development tours, and leadership roles. In 2020, as President of ENACTUS UMP, she led the team to win $5000 in Ford competitions for the sustainable community project REFUEL. In 2021, Ndlovu achieved an historic milestone as UMP's first master's graduate, earning her degree Cum Laude.

Recognised as an ATSP fellow and associate lecturer, she now facilitates modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her research journey involves publishing academic articles, presenting at national conferences, and pursuing a Ph.D.

Ndlovu declared, "I want my story to challenge all of you today to look again, look at my eight-to-ten-year journey with the institution, and ask why you can ever believe it is impossible to achieve what you come here for."

Expressing gratitude to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso, and the university's management and lecturers, Ndlovu defines excellence as "striving for greatness" and emphasizes the importance of doing one's best in all endeavours without compromising the quality of education. "This is what UMP has done in the past 10 years," asserted Ndlovu.

UMPThe Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso encouraged students to learn from the panelists. 

Former and first female Student Representative Council (SRC) President Vuyelwa Carol Magagula has evolved into an Associate Lecturer under the Academic Talent Stewardship Programme (ATSP) in Development Studies. Currently pursuing her Master's degree, Magagula's research delves into the Sustainability of Women-owned Home-based Businesses in the era of Load shedding and the significance of addressing challenges faced by women entrepreneurs during power outages, contributing to broader goals of sustainability and gender equality.

Reflecting on her experiences, Magagula spoke about her participation in the Student Exchange programme, where UMP provided her with a travel grant to study in Austria.

"UMP will never give you an opportunity and not equip you to utilise that opportunity to the best of your ability," she asserted.

Her journey includes breaking barriers as the first female SRC President, equipped with development programmes and opportunities to attend workshops that made her into the well-rounded leader she is today.

UMPThe event was attended by UMP Staff and Students.

Despite challenges, entering the presidency in her second year, Magagula navigated complexities and sought guidance when needed. Facing age-related challenges, Magagula sought advice from the Vice-Chancellor, who encouraged her and assisted her in using her leadership skills.

"I had overlooked the skills I was equipped with to lead at that point," she confessed.

Magagula is grateful for the opportunities presented by UMP. She acknowledged its impact not only on her leadership journey but also on her personal and business development. Magagula emphasised the importance of seeking help and highlighted UMP's open-door policy. Looking forward to the rest of her journey at UMP, she aspires to be a Vice-Chancellor one day.

Thabang Mashiloane, a 27-year-old from Hazyview, Mpumalanga, shared his transformative journey at the University of Mpumalanga (UMP), marked by resilience and achievement. Raised by a single parent, he pursued a BSc in Agriculture, inspired by his mother's guidance.

UMPrepeated pic

"I owe my academic success to the relentless mentorship of Prof Victor Mlambo, Prof Pakama Siyongwana, and the Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso at UMP," Mashiloane expressed, acknowledging the pivotal role of his mentors.

Reflecting on the Vice Chancellor's Scholarship, which he received for three consecutive years, he said, "The benefits, including a monthly stipend, on-campus accommodation, and leadership training, shaped my views and inspired me to become an influential leader."

During his undergraduate journey, he earned Academic Merit awards and participated in events such as the Universities Business Challenge. The International Summer Institute programme in Canada in 2019, he noted, "kindled hope and inspiration in the hearts of many Black African students at UMP." Professor Siyongwana's mentorship was transformative. "She instilled confidence and resilience in me," he remarked.

From a Geography researcher to an ATSP fellow, Mashiloane now serves in UMP's first cohort of ATSP Fellows. His MSc research, funded by the National Research Foundations and UMP, focused on the: Black mulberry fruit powder as a nutraceutical source. In 2023, he celebrated the publication of his first reviewed paper, showcasing a sustainable poultry production strategy using black soldier fly larvae.


Encouraging other students, Mashiloane said: "The magnitude of your attitude will determine your altitude. If anyone desires to inspire, they need to continue to desire, but if they don't desire, they will expire."

ATSP Fellow and Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences (FANS) and the School of Agricultural Sciences, Moses Zakhele Sithole, is currently pursuing a PhD in Agriculture.

Growing up in a rural area with non-educated parents, Sithole values his stepfather who ensured he received an education. Excelling academically from grade one to grade 12, he became the top student, earning numerous awards. Despite a large classroom in the first year, Sithole successfully passed and later became a mentor, tutoring first-year students. This role led to a significant meeting with the University's Management.

Encouraged by classmates, Sithole ran for an SRC position and was elected SRC President. While his presidency faced challenges, including a moment when he considered stepping down, he persevered and was recognized as SRC member of the year at the UMP Co-Curricular Awards.


Studying at UMP provided Sithole with opportunities, including a benchmarking visit to Kenya, where he experienced diverse lifestyles and cultural shocks. Enrolled in his Master's in Agriculture in 2021, he was appointed to the Academic Talent Stewardship Programme (ATSP) and became part of the first UMP ATSP Cohort.

Reflecting on his journey, Sithole expressed, "Being part of the ATSP is a dream come true. I can actually see my dreams becoming a reality. I’m honoured and humbled."

He sees the ATSP as a stepping-stone toward becoming a professional academic, hoping to develop his talents and become an effective and efficient professional in the field.

Speaking at the event, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso, emphasised, “Let us consistently remind those for whom we are creating opportunities about the paramount importance of discipline, unwavering determination, and fostering a drive to succeed. We must offer continuous encouragement, especially when motivation wavers, urging them to keep their egos in check and maintain humility. Let's actively discourage complacency, instil a mindset of seizing opportunities rather than waiting for them, and inspire a culture of creating opportunities where none exist.”

Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto.