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“It was my wildest dream to complete my first qualification with Cum Laude. I am proud of myself,” said Siyanda Mbatha.         

The 21-year-old Mbatha obtained Cum Laude for his Diploma in Shipping and Logistics and graduated at the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Virtual Autumn Graduation Ceremony on Friday, 28 May 2021.      

Hailing from Enkonjeni in Ulundi, North of KwaZulu-Natal, Mbatha praises his grandmother for being his pillar of support throughout his academic journey.     

“I am proud of myself for breaking curses. I come from a disadvantaged background where I was left with my grandmother who had nothing much to offer especially on the education aspect, but I was lucky to be exposed to ways that could help me escape the barriers that most children from rural areas are imposed to,” explained Mbatha.     

“I am the first person to receive my qualification with a Cum Laude pass at home. Everyone is happy and they all feel represented through me. I would have loved to walk across the stage, hear the audience clapping and my grandmother ululating for me, whilst filled with joy on her face when she sees me walking on stage, but that is impossible given the current situation. I am still grateful for reaching this far, graduating and having my qualification conferred to me formally,” said Mbatha.     

Mbatha’s journey was rocky as he fell sick during his final year of study and was compelled to finish his Work Integrated Learning (WIL) with numerous visits to healthcare facilities and practitioners.     

“I think COVID-19 enforced most of us to transition to online learning really fast and adapting was so hard. I sacrificed most of my beauty sleep for studying and I do not regret it because it paid off. The fun part about being a student was when my friends and I received good marks from tests and assignments,” he said.     

Mbatha wishes to further his studies at DUT in the year 2022 given that he gets funding.     

“I am the first one in my family to have obtained such an accolade, although my cousin Malibongwe was so close to getting Cum Laude in her years at DUT. That motivated me to want to study further and excel. I am thankful to my grandmother who has been supportive from the day I was born. Our grandmother has been a real pillar of strength for all of us and making sure we get an education has been her main priority.  My cousins would also push me to do better in everything I engage in. My friends and everyone who contributed to making this journey a big success,” he said.  

Mbatha on imparting some advice to students with a background like his, said, “Do you. Put yourself first in every situation and the rest shall follow. Also, your emotional state needs to be well taken care of if you want to do well in school. A supportive structure will also take you very far but never forget where you come from and what you are at DUT for.”  

Pictured: Siyanda Mbatha

Nikiwe Sukazi 

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