Great things might be expected from a person whose birth name is “Prince”, but not nearly as much as mechanical engineering graduate Prince Baloyi expects from himself.
Prince has visions of greatness in business and politics. “Once l decide to achieve something, I do just that,” he says. “Tenacity is the engine of my achievements.”
He says he realised during his studies that becoming an engineer was not enough for him. “I wanted to be in management. I want to be making the strategic business decisions, not just the decisions around drawings and building things.”
Prince, the oldest child of a Zimbabwean-born mother and a South African father, was encouraged as a child to achieve academically. “My mom would set targets for me. For example, if I came second in my grade, I would get a bike,” he says.
He spent his first few years in Alexandra township in Johannesburg, but his mother, a domestic worker, sent him to live with her parents in rural Masvingo in Zimbabwe when it was time for him to go to school. She was convinced he would get a superior education there.
His grandparents were subsistence farmers and Prince went to a rural junior school about an hour’s walk from their home. In spite of the corporal punishment mentality at the school, Prince developed a love of learning. He recalls sitting in their yard and writing the alphabet in the sand with his fingers for his granny to check.
He attended three schools in Zimbabwe and was consistently in the top 10 in his year. He went to boarding school in Standard 7 when the economy took a dive and the school’s ability to deliver a good education was marred by teacher strikes and insufficient funds even for nutritious food.
His mother decided it would be better for her children to move back to South Africa. His father was by then working on a refinery in the Western Cape and the family moved to Parow, he and his siblings attending school in Elsies River. When Prince moved to Settlers High, a top government school, it put a great deal of financial pressure on his father. “By that stage, I was clear I was going to go to university – that was a given ...We never spoke about how we would finance it, only that I was definitely going,” he says. He decided to study mechanical engineering.
He worked extremely hard in matric so that he would be eligible for bursaries. His results were impressive and he considered universities around the world. One of those that accepted him was in Turkey. But he chose Stellenbosch University because it immediately offered him a R32000 partial bursary for four years and residence accommodation. A National Student Financial Aid Scheme loan would cover the rest.
During his first semester, Prince learned he was a recipient of a Moshal Scholarship. He was ecstatic. “It gave me such freedom to focus on what was important and to grow into so much more as I got to know these inspirational people.”
Prince’s first year was challenging, not least because he refused to take part in the initiation rituals at res. This was partly why he never fully socially integrated there. “Also, my res had a very party, drinking, chaos kind of culture and this didn’t resonate with me. I don’t drink or like partying, and I was afraid of failing so I mostly studied.”
He battled with engineering drawing but, although he had the option of changing to another type of engineering that didn’t need the subject, he persevered and carried drawing into his second year. “This was all about not being a quitter. I had started mechanical engineering and I was going to finish it, no matter what,” he says.
In his third year he was chosen as the South African Moshal Scholarship Program ambassador and represented this country in Israel for a few weeks. “It was an exciting adventure, meeting Israelis in exactly the same situation as me. I will always be grateful for this chance to see that unique country.”
After graduating in 2011, he secured a place on the Dimension Data programme, which fast-tracks graduates' development in the commercial world by giving them a taste of working in the company's various businesses. “Engineers are seen as having a certain personality – nerdish, reserved … People see you as a smart kid at university, but here (at Didata) that can be a disadvantage. I have had to learn to be more of a people's person. Fortunately, my Moshal Scholarship courses have helped a lot with that.”
In 2017 Prince will enrol for a master’s degree to give him more ammunition to accomplish his dreams of making his name in business.
Then he fancies entering the political arena. “I am obsessed with politics, especially African politics.”
Talk about living up to a powerful name.