The SASAS Merit award awarded by the president of the society, seeks to acknowledge “Brilliant young stars” who during their undergraduate studies at any South African university, rose against all odds and came out top of their class. This year a young man from the University of Fort Hare will be receiving this very award. Sanele Nzonzo was born in Bizana, Eastern Cape and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Animal Science with the University of Fort Hare. He shares with us his undergraduate experiences which led to him receiving the Student Postgraduate Merit Award.
My academic journey
I had a rather delayed start to my academic journey as I registered past the registration date with UFH and as such I did not set any academic goals in my first year (You must be thinking yeah right, I don’t blame you). For the most part I was playing catch up to the syllabus, particularly in the first semester. The shock of all shocks was when I realised that there was more to the degree than just agriculture because in my first semester I mostly did physics, chemistry, statistics and biology, which I didn’t expect. As a result of the late registration I was a non- resident student and that was challenging. Having to balance school work and moving from one place to another in a town I’m unfamiliar with felt like obtaining another degree all together. However I managed to pass all my courses in that very challenging year.
Fast forward to final year
I was aware of what was expected of me in terms of the courses I had to do and I think I was prepared. As part of our final year programme we have seminar and project presentations (the highlight of the year). Carrying out the project was a learning experience I enjoyed because it gave me insight into the world of research. These two presented a different and exciting challenge to the normal taught courses however they demanded that I leave my comfort zone as I knew it.
Being a South African student, in a South African institution meant that I couldn’t be exempted from the societal challenges students like myself are faced with and as such I was affected by the #FeesMustFall campaign. For me it couldn’t have happened at a worst time. There I was about to complete my four years degree and all of a sudden everything came to a standstill. It was as if the world was coming to an end, so I thought. Consequently my performance dropped during my final year because I had limited time to study after the protests.
What does this award mean to you?
The award will allow me to further my professional and academic career. During the past four years of undergraduate studies I have put every effort into maintaining the highest level of academic excellence thus receiving this award made me realise it was not in vain, at all. It has motivated me to work hard in pursuing a career in research.
Greater things have yet to come!
I see myself running a small farm (self-employed) while pursuing a PhD. I am not ignorant to the fact that I will have to put in a lot of work into the making all my aspirations come true, however, this award is proof to me that I have begun and there’s no turning back.