Kgomotso Motshoane found her passion in a life of academia, and is en route to fulfilling her dreams
Five years ago, Kgomotso Motshoane only had vague ideas of what she wanted to do with her life. Having just matriculated, her goal was simple: “I just wanted to go to university,” she recalls.
Initially, Kgomotso wanted to study medicine, but didn’t get in. “I was accepted to do a degree in health sciences, and applied for medicine three more times,” she adds. It was not meant to be.
Fast-forward to the present, and Kgomotso has not only accepted the direction her journey has taken, she is striding ahead on her path. “The whole journey has channelled me to where I want to be; it showed me that physiology is the backbone – the most important aspect – of medicine. I feel more in place right now… I’m more driven, and focused on doing what I love,” she says.
The Wits postgrad student is working towards her MSc degree, researching diabetes prevention by studying the effects chemicals found in various seeds have on rats.
University has helped shape her personal and professional development, notes Kgomotso. “There’s so much growth at university; you literally become your own person, and find yourself. The friends I made here share my interests; they inspire me, enhance my knowledge and encourage me to go further,” she explains. “I’m really inspired to go a level higher, and my biggest dream now is to complete my PhD,” she adds.
It’s fair to say Kgomotso was geared for a life of academia from an early age – but a university education was not a given for the girl who was orphaned as a youngster. Born and raised in Pretoria, she lost her father, a soldier, when she was four; when she was 13, her mother succumbed to pneumonia.
“My mother inspired me to take education seriously,” says Kgomotso, adding that her mother had pursued part-time studies at Unisa to upgrade her education diploma for a degree. “She used to help me study – she literally sat down with me and studied for tests – and I still miss those moments.”
Fortunately, Kgomotso’s aunt stepped in and adopted the young orphan. “My mom’s eldest sister inspires me. She supports me in everything I do: in high school and at university, she would phone me every morning to pray and wish me luck for every single test, from Grade 8 to my final undergrad exams,” says Kgomotso.
Fulfilling wishes and dreams
Her entire family also ensured that Kgomotso’s mother’s wish – that the academically gifted young girl be well educated – were realised. This, despite the financial toll it took. “The dream was that I went to Prestige College (a private school in Hammanskraal) so the family made ends meet, though it was a struggle to keep me there,” says Kgomotso. Her experience at “a very strict” Afrikaans primary school gave her the grounding she needed to overcome challenges and, to ease the strain on her family, Kgomotso took it upon herself to apply for a scholarship at her school.
The bursary, from TEN (Tsebo Education Network) Talent, meant shifting from being a day scholar to boarding, from Grade 10 to matric. It also connected the driven young Duxe Scholar to the Moshal Scholarship Program. “I was shocked when I got accepted; I didn’t think I’d get it, I was just going with the flow, following procedure when I applied,” she recalls.
University was calling, but Kgomotso had no idea how to respond, given the lack of funds. Serendipitously, her aunt one morning encouraged her to pray, then go out and get the bedding and supplies she would need for university. That same day, Kgomotso received the news that she had been accepted into the program.
“Moshal has changed my train of thought – I’m a different person; I’m much more of a grateful person than I was before I entered the program,” reveals Kgomotso. “Moshal showed me that there are people in this world who are willing to help kids succeed simply because, and don’t expect anything in return.” The support from the Program was invaluable, adds Kgomotso.
“They regularly bring in speakers who inspire us. Moshal was there for us. They supported us all the way, and encouraged us to come and talk to them if we needed to. I needed that.”
Moshal also inspired her to give back. Kgomotso teamed up with two of her best friends, Thuli and Neo – who’d been to the same primary and high school as her – to form a self-funded NGO called Inspiring Teens. Amongst other initiatives, they would host annual career fairs for matriculants.
“That’s something I’m passionate about – spreading the biggest message: that life does not stop after matric. We encourage kids to go fetch that degree, or masters, so that you can go in any direction you choose,” Kgomotso enthuses.
Buoyed by her family’s support – “just knowing that they believe in me keeps me going,” – she’s reaching for her dreams – and determined to inspire others to follow theirs.