Coveted Vice Chancellor’s Award for a Mamelodian

I am Emma Mashilo. I am a Business Management Honours student who has won the coveted Vice Chancellor’s Award at the University of Pretoria (2018). This was possible because I am a Mamelodian!

I come from a humble Mamelodi background. My family are non-academics and I am actually the first in my family to graduate from university. Initially, I had applied for admission to the BCom degree at the University of Pretoria Hatfield Campus. However, I was less than happy when I was accepted into the BCom Extended Programme at the Mamelodi Campus. Yes, I was happy to be in university, but I was not thrilled to be part of the Extended Programme for many reasons: I had not planned on spending four years in getting one degree; I was concerned about the financial implications of one extra year; and, if I have to be brutally honest, I was somewhat embarrassed about being at a campus that was seen as a place for students who were “not smart enough” for the mainstream.

Nevertheless, my tertiary academic journey began at the University of Pretoria Mamelodi Campus in February 2014. On Registration Day, I met many students who felt like I did – we were unhappy to be at the Mamelodi Campus. Well, we had a rude awakening after the first semester tests. I and several of my class mates initially struggled to cope with the academic demands – my marks were not too good. I struggled to adjust academically to university. However, as we progressed into the second quarter, things got better. We gradually realised the plusses of being at the Mamelodi Campus: the small classes, personal attention as well as extra tutorials were just some of the advantages that contributed towards my eventual academic achievements. Most importantly, I learnt how to study and received enormous support from tutors, lecturers and the Student Support Centre. All of these lessons and motivation contributed towards the rest of my academic success.

At the end of the year, while I was happy to be moving to Hatfield campus, I was also sad to leave the safe, nurturing family feeling of the Mamelodi Campus environment. When I got to Hatfield Campus, I missed the peaceful Mamelodi Campus, the library where one always could find study space and the helpful lecturers. However, I was a stronger student because of my time at the Mamelodi campus. I reaped the rewards of being at Mamelodi and was a committed, success-driven student. Ironically, I actually helped other students to navigate Hatfield campus academics! Coping with the Hatfield Campus academic minefield is a cinch for Mamelodi students who learn many valuable academic survival strategies, like assignment writing, the art of consulting with lecturers, study techniques, time management, etc.

Not only did I complete my undergraduate degree in the required time, I also earned significant rewards: I received the Vice Chancellor and Principle’s award; I was awarded for being the best overall achiever in my degree; and, I have also received several other awards throughout my undergraduate years. I do believe that I would have been unable to achieve these successes if it were not for my good fortune (in retrospect) of being in the Extended Programme. What I had initially thought of as being a drawback, proved to be a stepping stone for an even bigger comeback. My success is a testament to the effectiveness of the Extended Programme.

I am aware of the perception that students who go to the Extended Programmes at Mamelodi Campus are not academically strong. It certainly does not do much for the confidence and motivation of students who are feeling discouraged for not being accepted into their desired programme. I hope that my story will do its share in eradicating this perception from people that has never been at the campus. I also hope it will inspire other students from Mamelodi Campus that you determine how the rest of your journey will look like. Know that you are fortunate to be given the chance to be at the Mamelodi Campus. It is the place where you can build that necessary foundation for the rest of your academic journey. Initially, you may regard being at the Mamelodi Campus as a curveball that life has thrown at you, but the benefits of spending your first tertiary year at the Mamelodi Campus far outweigh any of the disadvantages. Stay on course, work hard and you will see the results. A Mamelodian has a special resilience: you have to fight against many rejections and find the courage to work hard towards excellence. These qualities lead towards academic success and make you highly marketable. We are truly privileged to be Mamelodians!