I will be honest, although I went to one of the top government schools in Johannesburg, I have never really had a sense of fraternity with my high school since leaving 10 years ago. I have no regrets about not attending my 10 year reunion last year, I honestly don’t recall all the names of the head pupils and I cringe when I see a Facebook friend request from a former peer whom I initially don’t recognize and have no interest in keeping in touch with. Nonetheless, I could not help but feel nostalgic over the past few days in light of the Matric results for the Class of 2014 being announced. I recall this time 10 years ago I received the news that I had successfully completed my high school career and looked at the year ahead with much exhilaration and expectation. These feelings came to me as I was about to embark on a new academic and personal journey in a new city. A life of independence, exploration and self-discovery was literally a handful of weeks away and there would be no looking back.
At the time I had no clue who or what I would become in 10 years’ time, all I knew was that I was taking the next step needed in order to compete for a decent job and earn a decent salary. Gap years were not an option in my household and, as the last born, I had siblings that had already completed two degrees each by the time I was in Matric, so as you can imagine the standard had been set. One of the things that my younger self couldn’t completely comprehend at the time was just how far I could take my academic career. Come to think of it, I probably thought that university education ended at Honours level back then. Of course after entering university I received greater exposure to the world of tertiary, and I realized that there was a lot more to academia. But still, and most likely due to limited personal exposure to people who had studied at higher levels, I never saw myself going beyond a certain point with my studies. Mid-way through my Honours year, I started going for job interviews and by the end of the year I had a few offers lined up. It wasn’t until my older sister sternly said to me “You’re not leaving university until you get your Master’s degree” that I started toying with the idea of studying even further for a third qualification. I entertained the idea partially because of my absolute dread for disappointing my family (my sister’s words felt more like a strict instruction than advice!) but also because deep down the 23 year old me didn’t feel ready to leave university, there was still more I could learn, and hey- maybe I did have what it takes to earn a Masters’ degree from the top university on the continent. From that point on, a Master’s degree was no longer a question and the universe conspired to award me scholarships, overseas study experience and even better career (not job) opportunities.
One of the messages I try to convey strongly in my talks to youth is the importance, the challenges and the incredible benefits of studying to the highest level. Not everyone grows up with a stern sister, or the kind of role-models that have reached excellence in their fields and are constantly re-enforcing an unfathomable bigger picture. So I feel it is my duty to expose 18 year old minds to the possibilities that I certainly never knew existed for me at that age, despite having good schooling and access to multiple forms of career guidance. Being part of Mbewu Movement arms me with nine incredibly bright twenty-something year old young women who between us, please allow me to brag here, have almost six Master’s degrees (one is currently underway in the UK), five Master’s degrees from international universities and two qualified Chartered Accountants. I don’t think any of us thought we would be where we are today back when we matriculated but one thing is for sure, we still ain’t seen nothing yet!
Article by: Magcino Radebe | Mbewu Movement Founding Member
Magcino Radebe holds a Master of Philosophy in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (University of Cape Town). She is a former Strategy Consulting Manager and is currently on sabbatical until she embarks on a career in Insurance Financial Services.