Securing our future with Agrometeorology and Climate Science

Mendy Lisa Ndlovu

BWIS alumni and contributing author  for our article about student debt and finances “Paying” the way towards academic success, Mendy Ndlovu has chosen a unique career in Agrometeorology. Find out more about her academic background, her endeavors to use her scientific knowledge to benefit the communities she works with, her personal interests and what makes her more than just a scientist below.

Tell us a bit about your background, who is Mendy?

Mendy is a young lady, born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. I am my mother’s first born, followed by two brothers (19 and 5 years old). My late father passed on just before my first birthday leaving me and my mom under the care of my grandparents who then sent mom back to school and raised me themselves.

I have always been top of my class. My principal  (in primary) always forced me to represent the school in maths and science Olympiads and when I was in grade 6 I ended up representing the entire district I grew up under and one thing lead to another. In 2007 I found myself being selected for the Oprah Winfrey Academy for girls (first group in S.A following the official introduction of the school) and I ended up meeting Mam Oprah herself , even though I had no idea who she was (blame it on the rural living and lack of resources). At that point, I wanted to be a pilot and a fashion designer/guru, I honestly wanted nothing to do with Science but I couldn’t afford to go to go train to be a pilot after matric and my mom wanted nothing to do with me getting a BA in fashion.

Fast forward to today, Science chose me. I have an undergrad in Geography and Environmental management and a Master’s degree in Agrometeorology (focusing on extreme weather events and community resilience under climate change). I am currently proposing for a PhD focusing on Climate modelling and Climate Information Services for South Africa (more specifically marginalized rural areas) for adaptation and mitigation to climate change under the same discipline (Agrometeorology).

Tell us about your previous education, where did you study and why did you pursue a post-graduate degree (what is the benefit?)?

I did both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa). When I completed my first degree, I did not feel ready to go out there and work. My degree was more theoretical than practical and that was really scary for me because what’s in the books and what’s actually done at work are different things and I have a fear of not knowing what to do or how things should be done. I decided to stay in school, pursue an honours degree and get a research assistant position to expose me to the more practical side of things. I started working with communities then, identifying knowledge gaps and trying to find solutions and in that way gaining some work experience in different disciplines including agriculture, food security, and climate science.  Having completed my honours degree, I had interests in extreme weather conditions and I proposed for a masters and my supervisors helped me link that to community resilience and I started working with the Umngeni Resilience Project then.

The main benefits of pursuing a post graduate qualification are mainly related to growth. I grew as an individual, as a researcher, as a scientist, as a leader and as a project manager (which helps a lot for those who want to start organisations and businesses).

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What does the subject of your current research and why did you choose this?

I am currently focusing climate science (Climate modelling and climate information services). I chose to focus on this because climate change is real and the impacts that come as a result of climate change are affecting our communities, which are not capacitated with relevant climate information to help them build resilience and adapt to climate change. The climate science knowledge and information gap between the scientific community and the general public in Africa as a whole is huge and growing which is a big problem because I do not see how people are expected to build resilience to and around something they do not understand.


What are the main challenges you face conducting your particular research? Are there any challenges in particular that you face as a woman?

Environmental Science and Climate science to be specific are “white” disciplines in South Africa. I went for a job interview earlier this year and when I got to the venue, not only was I the only female, I was the only BLACK female being interviewed alongside 7 white males. Their interview slots were, at an average 20 minutes long and mine was exactly 8 minutes, after waiting for hours for my turn to be interviewed. Yes, I was interviewed by 3 white males, 1 white lady and 1 black male who was shocked to see me walk in.  I still give myself a hug each time I think about that day. We as women have a lot to do to address unfair situations within the science industry. Oh and no, I did not get the job.

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If you could restart your post-grad career again, would you do anything differently to better prepare yourself?

I would take some time off after completing my under-grad degree to prepare myself mentally so I can be more tough, confident and resilient in my pursuit of post-grad career. I do not think there’s anything, so far that has required more of my mental strength and energy other than my post-grad career. Honestly it is a crazy environment. Working with different personalities, racial boundaries, the unnecessary competition amongst us women (put race aside), delayed funds to conduct research and the list goes on. I would definitely take some time off to prepare myself and there after build more confident in myself to better represent and pave the way for all my sisters to come after me in this department.

Do you have any advice to share with young female scientists following in your footsteps?

Firstly you need to be passionate about being a scientist (even if science chooses you like me, find a branch you’re passionate about). Being a female scientist is tough, really tough.  This means that you have to be tougher in pursuit of your career in Science. Follow your passion with confidence! You are going to need this because most disciplines in Science are male-dominated. Also, find a mentor, I really cannot over-emphasize this point. Build resilience around what you are doing, so to say have both plan A and B even when you have 80% chance of making it the first time around. Lastly take risks, face your demons heads on, network (this is hard, I still struggle but it is very very important) stay humble but reach for Mars!

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”- Paulo Coelho but to add onto that, you have to be in line with YOUR purpose! I don’t see the universe giving you what was never meant for you.

How do you manage academics and your personal life?

Time management! I think this has been the most important skill I’ve taught myself.  I have had to learn the hard way that the anxiety that comes when I am behind in my academic work will definitely ruin the time I spend with my family, friends, business partners and outreaches. So I manage my time the best way possible so I can have time for and proper state of mind for my personal life.

DISCLAIMER! This is not always effective and I sometimes find myself having to choose between the two and academics come first most of the time because there’s a lot at stake and trust me, you’re always being watched as a black woman.

What other activities interest you?

  • Climate Action and awareness, I was part of the organising committee for YOUTH4CLIMATE ACTION Durban, find more details here.
  • Agriculture (Controlled environment sector).
  • Community outreaches and development (this is very close to heart and that’s why I started an organisation focusing on this after working with the street store for 2 years): Click here for more information.
  • Being around the ocean (this helps me calm down and realign myself).
  • Reading (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho remains a favourite).
  • Travelling, music and nature photography (Day dreaming is real most of the time).
  • FASHION! FASHION! FASHION! (I owe it to myself to do something big in this industry).

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Well this is exciting! I’ll be Dr. Ndlovu in 5 years’ time (Insert the victory dance move). I would have built my grandmother a home she has been dreaming for.  I’d be one of the most influential women in South Africa, even the world (maybe). I do hope to be one of the Forbes 30 under 30 humans (laughs).

Mendy Ndlovu

Our mantra as BWIS is “In Our Element”, are you in YOUR element? What does this phrase mean to you?

Being in my element means being in line with my purpose, using all my potential (before I depart) serving in my field, giving back and empowering communities and being the best version of myself each time I show up. And yes, I do believe I am in my Element.

Where to search for student financial resources?

Continuing on from our previous conversation with BWIS alumni Mendy Lisa Ndlovu (access  her article here and her profile here), how can one further their studies amidst a financial crisis? Well, there are plenty of financial resources available, however, searching can prove to be quite the tedious task. We have compiled a list of a few websites to start your search and shared some advice and ideas. We have also included search engines providing you  with even more opportunities not on this current list, your search can be tailored to your specific needs. Have a look at the list below and click on the highlighted text to be redirected to the relevant websites.

Bursaries and Scholarships

Start by approaching your campus and exploring faculty scholarships and bursaries. Higher education institutions often reward students achieving high academic excellence. Also look into companies that are involved in the scientific discipline, they offer bursaries, internships or job opportunities to graduates.

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National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

National Research Foundation (NRF)

Be attentive to the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to be updated with the available financial support bursary programmes, grants and awards.

Mandela Rhodes Foundation

Some great directories to search for updated bursary opportunities in all fields:

Go Study: tailor your search to your specific needs.

Bursaries South Africa updates you on what is available from private companies, institutes, universities the government and many other public bodies. The website also covers various other fields of study so be sure to tell your friends.




BWIS supports international scientific collaboration and formulating strong international academic relations. Those of you interested in crossing the South African boarders have many options to start your search.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) provides a list of international scholarships and fellowships for South Africans, a quick search through their website will lead you to a number of options.

This is a little secret that not many people know about, you can explore the embassy websites of your prospective country of study. Embassies often advertise available scholarships and bursaries for students wanting to study in their country.

The French Embassy in South Africa and Campus France for example, offer a number of scholarships for students wishing to pursue their Masters or PhD studies in France (English are courses available). You can view these here and here. Explore these options for your country of choice.

Erasmus+ offers scholarships for students to study abroad, staff training and teaching opportunities, traineeships and apprenticeships and youth exchanges. Learn more about their opportunities here.

Interested in travelling within Africa for your studies? Click here to access the Intra-Africa Mobility Scheme of the European Union and take advantage of opportunities at top universities across the continent.

A great website to search for scholarships, short-courses and training available within Africa and across continents worldwide is After School Africa, here you can search for all scholarships available for developing countries.

Student Loans


Bursaries South Africa provides a details and information regarding student loans. Click here to be more informed about the loaning process and to see what student loans are offered by the four major banks in South Africa.

We advise all students to take caution and understand the terms of your student loans from banks and financial aid. Pay attention to the overall costs involved such as interest and the conditions of repayment, know how these will affect your finances once you start earning an income.

A 2017 IOL article by Martin Hesse (click here) provides more insight on NFSAS and the bank loan options available to fund your studies. Hesse covers details we often neglect such as, eligibility or qualification criteria, the student expenses covered, details regarding the repayment of loans and the associated charges. He also offers advice for students to consider prior to making a commitment.

Refer to this Parent24 article by Carin Bevan here, to better understand the different government and university bursaries and financial aid opportunities available to at tertiary institutions across the country.

Some Advice

If the closing date has already passed, do not despair. Use this as an opportunity to better prepare for the next call. Take note of the scholarships that interest you and have another look in a few months.

Observe the scholarship criteria and start preparing some aspects of your application in advance. The application process can be demanding which could be discouraging and lead to an incomplete application, many scholarships have not been awarded due to a this fact.

Subscribing to mailing lists and paying close attention to social media notices will ensure that you don’t miss out on the next call. Stay alert!

Word of mouth can be highly beneficial, speak to your supervisors, lecturers, friends or anyone relevant about your desire to gain financial support for your studies.

Do not stop your search here, there are many more resources to explore.

Pay attention to you student notices, these will keep you updated on what is available.

Student Debt, let’s talk about it.

This month BWIS alumni Mendy Lisa Ndlovu has contributed to our conversation regarding student financial resources, our student needs and expenses, and the predicaments we find ourselves in along the journey. Mendy graduated her Masters degree in Agrometeorology where her focus was on Drought and Extreme Temperature events. She is currently a PhD Candidate in Agrometeorology, focusing on Climate Information and Support Services.

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“Paying” the way towards academic success

Mendy Ndlovu

Five years into my career as an emerging young, black, female researcher; research funding remains the greatest struggle in varsity. The University of KwaZulu-Natal goes on strike at least twice a year seeking to address issues related to higher education and money. That’s a standard. However, for the first time since I first became a student at the UKZN, this year (2019), postgraduate students shut two campuses down, protesting against the financial injustices black postgraduate students have had to endure within this institution. Postgraduate students protest? Shocking right? But the conditions are bad! Government funding is gradually taken away from postgraduate students to try and accommodate undergraduates and the NRF is decreasing the number of students who receive funding each year and it’s a sticky situation.

As a black, person, a black women to make matters a bit more tricky, we face a lot of injustices within our communities,  chosen higher education institutions and within our chosen fields of study and departments in science which remains a either a male dominated, white male dominated or white dominated. With this, being persistent and pushing through, progressing and reaching higher levels within your field comes with a lot of emotional strain. That’s not it! To add onto the emotional, physical and sometimes spiritual costs and strains that come with being a black, female scientists conducting research is the financial burden.

So to recap; the cost of doing research, in science as a black woman involves emotional capital, physical capital, spiritual capital and financial capital. Don’t ask me why I suddenly decided to capitalise all of these, it’s just easier to conceptualise the costs that way. Oh! How did I miss social capital? We lack a lot of the “social element” as black female researchers. Well at least in my case because I’m always in the field, helping rural communities build resilience to climate change; at the lab or in my office writing reports, in a school or community somewhere giving small talks about climate change or on the roads peacefully protesting against certain actions that puts south Africa more at risk (once in a while).

Back to funding, research is expensive! This is one of the reasons why most people, particularly black women discontinue their studies as soon as they get a “degree completed” for their undergraduate degrees. They leave academia to go try and find jobs, which are unfortunately rare in South Africa. Students who remain on the system to pursue their postgraduate degrees struggle to make ends meet and to finance their research. By the end of honours, more emerging researchers leave the system. At masters level 20/365 students who enrolled for undergraduate degrees remain and of that 20, only 7 or 8 are black women. Because of the “Kanti uqeda nini ukufunda” alongside many social, financial and cultural issues, some of these women don’t get to finish their Masters degrees and they end up amongst the unemployed graduates of South Africa (maybe we should make this a reality show).

I was lucky enough to be recognised as a student of the year by the Rural Development Foundation (LIMA) for the years 2017 (honours)-2018 (masters). Adding to that, in 2017 I was recognised by the Golden Key International honours society to be amongst the top 15% researchers / students within my region and that keeps on opening doors for me and will continue to do so because the GK membership is a lifetime long membership.

Putting that aside, what helped be ease my financial burdens when I started doing research as a postgraduate student  was to link my research to certain projects that had similar research interests (thanks to my supervisor who suggested this). These projects then had to cover my research costs and needs financially and most of my living expenses. Also it helps to work as a research assistant within a certain discipline because you get a monthly stipend for your services while you get some ground experience.  I am now done with my masters and was nominated by another project to do my PhD with them which means that once again, I’m partially financed to do my research, well at least for the first year of PhD and they’ll take it from there. Exciting! I know but the R354 682 worth of student loans which financed my undergraduate studies remain! With 80% interest rates, I’m positive I’ll be owing millions by the time I’m able to pay back.

Click here to find out more about Mendy’s academic journey, her research, personal interests and what message she has to share with fellow scientists and those interested in the field.

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Debt. This is the unfortunate predicament of many students and young professionals in South Africa and internationally. How to finance your studies then? By exploring all of your options and making a commitment from an informed position.

Taking out a student loan is the reality and sometimes only option for many of us. We therefore cannot ignore this possibility but rather educate ourselves about the liability of this commitment. According to the article accompanying the below image on the Prudential News website (read here), their study showed that many American college students are misinformed about their study loans and as a result, debt has lead to many impediments in their post-graduate, professional and personal lives. We cannot deny that this is the case for many South African students too.

In the Dark About Student Debt

BWIS has taken the liberty to compile a brief list of the financial resources available to students, this includes scholarships, bursaries and loans both local and international. Click here to access this list and educate yourself.

Breast Cancer Awareness: A Doctors Advice

Nonyameko Ndlovu

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and so we saw it fit to feature young female Doctor, Dr. Nonkyameko Ndlovu. Learn more about her previous studies, profession, her experiences as a young black female doctor and what makes her who she is. Nonyameko also shares some facts about breast cancer, debunks some myths and provides us with some useful advice. 

Background and Education

Tell us a little bit about yourself, who is Nonyameko?

I am a 26 year old female ,born in Zambia and bread in South africa. I have always been ambitious for my quest for success, not always knowing how to go about it but always having a burning desire. I am an introvert. I like to help people and my desire is to fight against poverty, in the environment I work in, it’s the norm.

Tell us about your previous education, where did you study and why did you pursue your degree (what is the benefit)?

I studied at UKZN Nelson Mandela School of Medicine. I wanted to be a doctor since a very young age, we all kinder want to be, childhood dream career. I didn’t think it would’ve been possible without the help of my parents, varsity is very expensive. I always watched these medical dramas, seeing the action of someone coming in almost dead and the miracle of the surgeon putting the individual back together, I wanted to be that person, reality is not always that dramatic and glamorous but we do make a difference.

What is your current profession and where are you employed?

I am a second year intern, I will be a com-service doctor in 2018. I work in the small town of Stanger in KwaDukuza Municipality , it’s a very nice place to gain independence and the working environment is good, never met such great hardworking doctors in one place!

What does your daily job entail and what are your responsibilities?

Well as an intern you always work under supervision but there’s always room for you to have some independence and to master the craft of being a well-rounded doctor. We rotate around almost all the disciplines, there’s ward rounds, clinic patients to see, theatre assistant if you’re doing a surgical discipline, we are basically the elves in Santa’s workshop.

How difficult/easy was the transition from being a student to a full time professional?

It was very difficult; it went from just being a bystander to having to fully immerse yourself in the work force and with the shortage of doctors you have to pull your weight.

Do you believe that your academic experience provided you with all of the necessary skills to fully integrate into the working place (E.g. team facilitation, management etc.)?

 There’s a lot that you have to absorb as a student, working means having to apply it and sometimes you need the working experience to exercise that part. It’s not only about your knowledge it’s also your ability to work as a team and to have respect for everyone which you learn as you work.

What are the main challenges you face in your job (medical or non-medical) and what are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

The challenges are lack of equipment, infrastructure that is not conducive to an effective working environment e.g no beds available to examine a patient properly, large patient load and sometimes work load, patients lack of desire to be fully knowledgeable about their illness and therefore to take responsibility of their life e.g constant defaulting of medication. I am so grateful when people appreciate the time and effort you put in trying to help them even with a failing health system and making them better than they were before seeing you.

Would you say that there is diversity within your profession? Do you believe that black female doctors are well represented in leadership positions?

I think there is diversity, I think that we have started the race a bit later so black women are still realizing their potential and they are working towards leadership positions, we are still currently under represented.

Do you have any plans of studying further/to specialise and is this important for your career?

Currently I’m conflicted, I’m almost done but I’m still weighing out the benefits of the different specialties. I want to have a family one day, probably should be sooner as my age is catching up with me so I want to find something that will give me the leeway to do so. Specializing allows growth in your career it’s a difficult journey but the outcome if all goes well is great, definitely something to consider.

Breast Cancer Awareness


What are the most common types of cancer affecting women in South Africa?

Breast cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer.

From a medical perspective, what exactly is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a growth of abnormal cells within the breast tissue. Certain people are more predisposed as there is a genetic component involved but there are other risk factors that make certain people more inclined to it like obesity or women that are menopausal.

What are the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

 Sometimes there are no warning signs or they may be subtle, usually there’s a lump in the breast, skin changes on the breast, weight loss, bloody nipple discharge, breast pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or underarm or a change in the size of the breast or nipple.

Angelina Jolie made headlines several years ago when she opted for a double mastectomy because tests showed that she was genetically inclined to develop breast cancer. Can you elaborate on cancer risk assessment techniques? Would you recommend this to women with a family history of cancer?

A test for the BRCA1/2 gene can be done especially in those with a family history of breast cancer. Mammogram screening from 40 years of age in low risk females. I think it’s a personal choice, they always say prevention is better than cure so if you can eliminate the risk by getting rid of the source you should.

Sometimes a lump may not necessarily be breast cancer, what other illnesses can this be mistaken for?

It could be a breast abscess, fibroadenoma, some women get lumps during menstruation which disappear on their own called a breast cyst, traumatic fat necrosis and intraductal papillomas.

How significant is early detection? Women can reduce their risks by undergoing examinations, can you elaborate on the types of examination processes available?

The earlier it’s detected the quicker treatment can be started and the spread can be reduced. The easiest and least expensive way to detect abnormality is regular self-breast examinations or clinical examinations, women more than 40 should have regular mammograms and if a lump is detected it should be tested either by fine needle aspiration, tru-cut or an excisional biopsy.

Can you list 3 common myths/misconceptions about breast cancer?

Men can also get breast cancer, it’s not as common as women but it does exist. Traditional medicine doesn’t cure you from cancer, seek medical attention if you’re worried and cancer is not only a Caucasian illness, black women should always be alert to any symptoms.

Are there any lifestyle habits one can adopt to reduce their risk to contracting cancer? Anything specifically for breast cancer?

Exercise and having a healthy diet, no smoking or alcohol use is recommended, this however doesn’t eliminate the risk completely if you especially have a strong family history.

Finding Balance


What other interests do you have?

I’ve taken up reading again, I’m still finding out what I like, having been so engulfed in school has left me “interest-less”.

We often hear about doctors’ stressful work schedules, how do you balance you professional and personal/social life?

I keep a small circle so it’s easy to find time to be social, there are weekend off days and post calls that allow you to have a life outside work.

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

Marriage and possibly 2 kids. Owning a business, trying to get into property and hopefully in a reg program.

Fun Facts about Meko!

Must have beauty item: Face mask, I’m still like a hormonal teenager, pimples pop out everywhere. I use Clinique face mask, keeps my face feeling open.

Sweet or savoury: SWEET, I’m a sucker for sugar, a bit addicted even. I have a cupboard, LOL!

If you had a super-power what would it be and why? Reading people’s minds so that I can get a better history from patients, LOL.

Best way to de-stress: Going on a holiday.

As a doctor do you like your own handwriting? Yes, I’m very considerate, even a grade 3 learner can see the letters!

Trading Places: From Student to Lecturer

Nkhensani Mogale

Meet Nkhensani Mogale, a young phenomenal scientist and lecturer in the Clinical Anatomy division of the University of Pretoria. Nkhensani represents female scientists who have chosen to pursue the academia and research career paths. She is a fine example of the growth potential within her profession and how rewarding it can be. Recently elected as the Honorary Secretary of the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA), it is clear that Nkhensani juggles many significant roles in her life. She epitomises the modern well-rounded female black women in science we are inspired by.

We discuss the challenges of transitioning from the role of the “student” to “lecturer” and she shares her perspective on diversity within South African universities. In this article we honour Nkhensani’s late father Mashangu Harry Maluleka, a former pastor and lecturer, for playing a pivotal role in inspiring her choice to pursue academia, being a supportive parent and leading by example.

Education and Research

Tell us a bit about your background, who is Nkhensani Mogale?

Born Nkhensani Maluleka, I am a middle child of three (older sister and younger brother). My parents are both teachers in their own right, my mom is a now retired mathematics and life sciences teacher and my late father was a pastor and a ‘retired’ lecturer (he wouldn’t have agreed with me on the retirement bit, but at the time of his passing he no longer lectured in a formal setting of an academic institution). That may account for my initial interest in academia, possibly. 

I am a mother of a five year old little girl (Onaka-Ayana Mogale), and have been married to my husband (Mpho Mogale) for six years now.

I believe in hard work and ascribe to Oprah Winfrey’s philosophy, ‘Nothing worth having happens without hard work’. That said I also feel after an achievement it’s important to stop, smell the roses, take in the scenery and move on to conquer the next mountain.

What is your previous education, where did you study and why you choose that specific path?

My post matriculation journey started at the University of the Free State where I completed a BMedSc (Human Biology). The initial plan was to eventually apply for MBChB as at the time I thought I wanted to be a doctor, all which changed in my second year when Anatomy became a major subject. You could say I fell in love with the intricacies of the human body, it has been a passion since. I went on to study a BSc Macro-anatomy (Honours) at the University of Pretoria, which was followed by an MSc Anatomy (UP). I am currently enrolled for a PhD Anatomy at the University of Pretoria.

In 2008 I was employed by the University of Johannesburg (Department of Anatomy and Physiology), that’s where I discovered my love for academia which then became my chosen path.

What is your current profession and what inspired you to pursue a career in research/academics?

When I graduated from the University of the Free State I was fortunate to get a part-time position at the University of Johannesburg while I was furthering my studies. I stayed in this position for six years, which helped nurture my confidence as an aspiring academic, I was entrusted with a variety of roles during my stay at UJ. I was then employed into a full-time Junior Lecturer position by the then University of Limpopo (Medunsa Campus), this campus was later renamed the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. I was later promoted to Lecturer, I stayed in this position for three years and three months.

I have recently joined the Clinical Anatomy division of the University of Pretoria as a lecturer where I am hoping to further sharpen my skills and contribute to this field of science.

I think academia chose me or maybe Anatomy chose me, I can’t explain it but I love what I do and the rewards that you get from the interactions with students are unexplainable. The other benefit of my job is that I get to do research as well, which is further enriching my role in the scientific community.

What are the most rewarding aspects about your job?

As people who relay information and help with guiding knowledge for further understanding by students, one of the greatest rewards is when students grasp the knowledge of what is being conveyed and when they move to the next year. The look on their faces when they finally make the connection, that is satisfying.

Publications also give a certain level of satisfaction, to see your hard work documented and available for the broader community. As an Anatomist, the research end goal is to make a difference with your research to the broader medical field.

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How easy or difficult was your transition from being a student to a lecturer?

It’s a different world and a bit of a mental shift from being the receiver of knowledge to now being the conveyor of knowledge. Life was definitely easier when I was a student. Academia also comes with its pressures, student expectations and the like. There is also a need to publish and meet certain targets yearly. I do love it though, and I guess that is what keeps me going.

Can you give us a short summary about one of your research endeavours? What are the benefits of your research for society and the scientific community?

My interest is in Clinical Anatomy, I want any research project that I embark on to have some clinical significance. The clinical research that I completed was looking at the anterior and anterolateral approach to hip arthroplasty, specifically looking at which method may be better for patient outcome and the anatomy related to the hip. From that research conducted, one article has been published so far, and we are working on a second article. My PhD research is looking at the clinical, anatomical repair integrity of the rotator cuff following open surgery, with the focus being on a South African sample. What my hope is for any research that we embark on, is that it will assist clinicians, who are ultimately the ones to apply the research.

Do you think that there is diversity within the academic staff in South African universities? Are black female scientists being well represented? If not, how can we change that?

I think its discipline specific, some sectors are more transformed than others. We are slowly getting the representation we need, it is up to those of us who are in the field to change things and make it better and more accessible for aspiring scientists. Mentorship also plays a crucial role, the ‘each one teach one’ slogan.

Studying Abroad

You have had some experience teaching in Latvia, can you elaborate on your time abroad?

I visited the University of Latvia, and with time made my way to the medical school. That was an enriching experience for me, meeting people who are just as passionate about teaching and thoroughly enjoy working with students. In my short stay I was asked to give one lecture to the first year medical students, as anatomy is a ‘universal language’ it was an enjoyable experience. My time at the university also taught me to appreciate our education system, we really are on par with the world.

Keeping It Real

“There are moments when I feel I am in my element, but I’m not completely there, it’s a work in progress and I am mostly succeeding” – Nkhensani Mogale

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How do you successfully balance your professional and personal life?

The trick is having a good support system, and learning to take time off to recharge. You need to learn to accept help as well, to avoid burn out.  Consciously make time for the people in your life, especially your family. Work hard when you need to work but take time out to enjoy life as well.

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What is your message to young women aspiring to become lecturers?

It needs to be a passion, anything done with passion and love does not feel like work and becomes more rewarding. It is important to be true to yourself, and know yourself so you do not sell your soul in the attempt to forge ahead.

A good work ethic is important, because there will be times when you just want to throw in the towel. Work hard on making things a bit easier for those who come after you, they shouldn’t go through the same struggles. My father, Mashangu Harry Maluleka, lived by this slogan ‘If those who come after us complain about the same things we did, then we shall not have lived’.

Nkhensani’s Fun Facts!!!

What do you do for fun? I Read (A lot! That’s my utopia).

One of Nkhensani’s Faves!!

Favourite South African artist? Nomfundo Xaluva, The Muffinz, Thee Legacy, Thandiswa Mazwai, Lira, Dr Tumi, Zonke Dikana.

Who inspires you? Several people, Chimamandza Achidie Ngozi, true to herself and unapologetic about her feministic ideas and ideals.

My Daughter – Onaka-Ayana Mogale, makes me want to work harder and leave a dent in the world so her journey can be a bit better.

Thuli Madonsela, I love her authenticity – she tells her truth in silence (you don’t have to be loud to be heard, listen more talk less).

Mashangu Harry Maluleka, my late father – I have never known greater love than this, his absence in my heart is a reminder of the dent he left in this world.

Favourite South African cuisine? Tripe and dumplings, curry anything (especially lamb curry), samoosa’s, oxtail and samp.

Diving into academia can be intimidating however, everything is about perspective. Thank you to Nkhensani Mogale for giving us an insiders look into your career path and sharing your personal experiences. We are sure that there are many who share the same passion as you and are motivated to follow in your footsteps. All the best on your journey! See Nkhensani’s LinkedIn profile here.


Young, fit, free and ready for the comrades!

Nokuthula Dubazane

We feature Nokuthula ‘Noks’ Dubazane aka #babeswomgwaqo, an environmentalist who has a strong passion for long-distance running. Get to know how this BWIS manages to remain in her element while excelling in her scientific career and preparing for her first ever, 90 km Comrades Marathon this weekend (10 June 2018). 

What did you study / are you currently studying? Why did you choose to continue beyond your undergraduate degree?

I have an honours degree in Geography and Environmental Management which I attained at UKZN. Quite honestly, when I finished my first degree I was still confused as to what I wanted to do within the very broad environmental space so I believed that a postgraduate degree would allow me to figure that out. As it happens, that was a great decision as I love what I do now and I don’t think that I would have gotten here without my postgraduate training.

Tell us more about your career or your current research. Were you ever apprehensive or intimidated getting into this career and why? How did you handle that?

I have been working since 2010, and during that time my role has changed quite a bit. I started off with an NGO working on a programme that focused on environmental education. This was fine but after two years in that role I knew I wanted a change. I wanted to do something that would challenge me, but this was very difficult as the requirements for all the posts I tried applying for were too high. So in the end I knew that in order for me to be able to compete properly in the job market, I needed skills that I didn’t have at that point. So I took up an internship position which came with a salary cut but it also allowed me to begin my Masters studies. This was probably the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my career but it taught me a lot about sacrificing the small pleasures for long term goals. This time allowed me to plan and focus properly on my professional development, it also provided me a great opportunity to ensure that I was getting the right skills while networking with the right people. Eight years later, I have moved quite a bit in the environmental space (worked for both NGO and local government) and now work for government focusing on projects that deal with climate change adaptation and mitigation. So it has been quite a journey.


Where do you see yourself in your professional career in the next 5 years?

Like I do with my running, I think that I will take my career one step at a time. I think that aiming for a title or position doesn’t say anything about my abilities. I want to finish my Masters (which has taken longer than I would have wanted to) and learn leadership skills from the people around me. I want to be in a position where I am the best that I can be in my industry, and I want to be inspiring other young women around me to be doing the same.

On Instagram you describe yourself as “a social specialist by profession”, what does this mean?

Good question, right? Well I have an honours degree in Social Sciences, and have battled with what that means in my career for the longest time but my research has led me to my own definition of what it means. To me a social specialist is someone that investigates the complexities of human interactions and how the perceptions and experiences of individuals can filter up to influence the governance structures of organisations. No matter how big an organisation is, the building blocks for success or failure are its people and we need to understand them and their contributions before we can move forward. I have been fortunate enough to have done some research and work in this space and continue to be fascinated by social systems.


How were you introduced to running as a hobby? (When did you start, why, fitness inspiration…)

Running as a hobby?! I think hobby is an understatement because running is one of my passions. I have always been an active person. I used to go to the gym for more than just a free shower. However, a few years ago I found myself in a stressful situation, I was battling to balance my work and life and I needed something to do to cope with stress. I was living in Howick at the time and don’t let this small town vibe deceive you. It is home to some of the best running trails and the most active people and I soon found myself in good running company without having to look very far.

We often use time as an excuse to neglect our physical health as busy students and professionals, how do you balance it all? What advice do you have for other women in this regard?

We have to make the time to care for ourselves and there’s a domino effect that ripples through the day. It’s like saying that you don’t have the time to eat properly when eating right gives us more energy to work efficiently. When I go for a run in the morning I definitely feel that I have more energy and confidence to face the day ahead.


How often and for how long/what distance do you run in a week? Tell us more about the running club you’re involved in, what differentiates this from any other club?

It depends on what I am training for, while training for the Comrades Marathon my training sometimes went up to as much as 90km a week which is quite high but if I were training for a normal marathon I would generally aim to average about 40km -50km a week. On peak training seasons I do try and run 4/5 times a week.

I also do group runs at least twice a week with a group of ladies that share my love for running. We meet twice a week and also get together for long runs during weekends. Our time together is always amazing, while we push each other with the running we also use it as a chance to encourage one another while catching up. This is a running community which means that there is no club fees or licensing for runners. Running clubs are generally characterized by their affiliation to Athletics South Africa (ASA), as a community we all belong to different running clubs but we do most of our training together.

Is a healthy diet an important aspect of your lifestyle, why? What’s your biggest weakness and how do you resist the temptation?

Yes but honestly it’s an area where I can still grow in. I honestly hate cooking, so it’s easy for me to grab a takeaway which is not always good. I try and eat healthy when I am preparing for a race as good nutrition goes a long way on race day, so my go-to appliance during those times is my steamer.

Do you think that focusing on a healthy lifestyle benefits other areas in your life/what differences have you noticed since beginning this journey?

Balance is important, for me running and the general outdoors certainly keeps me sane. Work can get busy and stressful, so when that happens I find that running helps put my mind at ease.

What is your best advice for someone who is interested in pursuing running as a way to get healthy? Any fitness apps/aids/gadgets you would recommend for runners? Favourite one?

Download apps like Nike Running App or Strava which track your distance, this will motivate you as you get to see how many km you run each time. Running is fun, it should be a lifestyle, so if you not used to it, rather take your earphones with and have an epic playlist which will get you through those moments of huffing and puffing. But remember, safety comes first, so make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.

Have your participated in any races? What are the costs involved? Can you recommend any student budget friendly events?

Yes I have, a lot of races charge a small entry fee which varies depending on the distance and organisers. Generally you get a free t-shirt and a medal when you finish the race. I would not suggest you do all the races because of cost but rather choose a few and in that way you don’t end up paying a lot. I would budget between R60 – R160 for race entry but this depends on whether you require a temporal license and the distance you running (cost is not the same for a 10km and 21km race).

What are your goals for your running career? Any marathons we should look out for?

I love running, and I just do it merely based on that, I enjoy pushing myself and realizing how much I can accomplish. Goals for this year include doing a few Ultra Marathons such as the Comrades Marathon, which is this weekend and I also intend to do more trail runs. I hope that in the next few years I can be able to do international runs such as Berlin Marathon.

comrades logo

Can you recommend free/affordable running/fitness clubs for students and career women on the run?

Parkrun is great since it’s free and there’s usually one in most areas.  Distance for parkruns is 5km and this generally caters for runners of all levels

What do you envision for the modern female scientist?

I don’t know but one thing I’m certain of is that she knows who she is, what she wants and does everything she can to get it. She is no longer entrapped by societal standards of what she needs to be but rather plots out her own fate. Modern female scientists are redefining what it means to be women, wives, researchers, etc by just being themselves. Is it easy? No but they are allowing the next generation to know that it can be done.

Are you a black woman in science in her element? What does being in your element mean to you?

I think I am getting there, but honestly this has taken a lot of coaching and mentoring. As a young professional I am constantly in spaces where I feel challenged and out of my depth but I have learnt over the years that the feeling of unease is mandatory for growth. We learn when we are out of our comfort zone. Having the right mentors has pushed me to focus on career development and has helped me balance the technical work skills with the relevant soft skills needed to survive the workspace. So am I a black woman in her element? I don’t think I am there yet, but I know I am certainly on my way there and I am surely finding pleasure in the journey.


Noks’ Fun Facts!

Favourite book: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg & ‘Broken Flowers’ by R.M Drake

Describe yourself in a hashtag: #babeswomgwaqo

Item you just cannot live without: Garmin Forerunner 35 watch

Dream destination: Bali

Life motto: Small sacrifices for big dreams

Keep an eye out for our fellow BWIS this Saturday! We wish you the best Noks.

instagram logo @noks_d