Pursuing his dream

WELL DONE: Bongani Mvelase won a Nelson Mandela scholarship to study in the UK. Pic. Abhi Indrarajan. 15/08/07. ©
WELL DONE: Bongani Mvelase won a Nelson Mandela scholarship to study in the UK. Pic. Abhi Indrarajan. 15/08/07. ©

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Recipients of this year's Nelson Mandela scholarship will leave for the UK next month.

Fourteen recipients were chosen from hundreds of applicants to study in the UK for a year. They will study towards different degrees and courses.

Bongani Mvelase is one of the happy recipients of the scholarship, named in honour of South Africa's favourite former president and world statesman, Nelson Mandela.

Mvelase, a qualified chemical engineer, will study towards an MSc in chemical engineering.

He believes that, if the country deals with the problem of skills shortage, the scourge of crime and of unemployment can be eradicated in South Africa.

While growing up in deep rural Emtshezi near Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal, Mvelase's was encouraged by his mother, Agnes Zulu, to work hard if he wanted his dreams to come true.

"This is one dream that at least came true. I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to study further in the UK," said a delighted Mvelase.

"But the dream would not be complete without my ultimate dream of a face-to-face meeting with Madiba," he said.

After completing his degree in chemical engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2004, Mvelase joined Toyota South Africa as a materials engineer.

He said he was passionate about working in a refinery. Mvelase's passion is what led him to his current position as a separation technologist at a major petroleum refinery.

Mvelase said many young people, especially in rural areas, believe that, because their families are poor, they will not be able to pursue their dreams.

This belief, he said, led to many struggling pupils losing hope and giving up their studies.

But he said they should never give up hope.

"My first degree was paid for by a scholarship, but I had to maintain good grades not to lose my scholarship," he said.

He is currently mentoring grade 12 students. He provides career guidance, based on the needs of the country.

He also arranges for experts in various fields to give talks and pass on their valuable experience to the pupils.

By staying true to his mother's words, "attitude determines altitude", Mvelase is just beginning to reach for the stars.