Currently doing his BSc honours in bioinformatics at UCT, Lindokuhle Nkambule is dedicated to empowering others through maths and science.
Having himself excelled in maths and science at school, Lindokuhle chose to study towards a BSc degree at UCT. Determined to do his honours, Lindokuhle initially had trouble picking the subject in which he wanted to specialise. Yet he eventually discovered a passion for Bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. “In third year, I had to choose my majors and I ended up taking bioinformatics,” he says. “Last year I got an internship in bioinformatics and that’s when I saw that this is what I actually love.”
Born in Joburg, Lindokuhle later moved to KZN with his mother who had found a job in the province. “My mom had to work and there was no-one to look after me, so I spent most of my time living in the Madadeni township in Newcastle with my aunts, which is where I grew up,” he recalls. “It was great being around my aunts. I have siblings who are older than me, but I didn’t really grow up with them because they were already working.”
Asked if education was always something that was important to him, Lindokuhle says no. “Growing up in the township there wasn’t much motivation,” he says. “I used to play soccer and my dream was to become a soccer star. From grade 10 to 12, I moved to live in Diepsloot in Johannesburg. There in grade 11, I met this teacher who taught me physical sciences. He’s the one who made me realise the importance of education and he encouraged and pushed me to focus on my studies and to do better at school.” Lindokuhle discovered his aptitude for maths and science and knew he wanted to go to university to fulfil his potential and build a better life.
“Growing up in the townships you face many challenges,” he says. “There are a lot of disadvantages, there’s crime, there’s poverty and much more. There is just a lot of stuff against you, so you have to keep trying anyway – I definitely had to persevere.”
The trials and tribulations he faced, in fact gave Lindokuhle the drive he needed to succeed. “The thing that motivated me most was coming from the background I did,” he says. “I did not want to go back to that, and I didn’t want the following generations in my family to go back to that. I also wanted to inspire the people in my township, to show them that they too can get out of the township through taking their education seriously.”
“Get someone out”
To get the university education he wanted, Lindokuhle knew he’d need financial assistance. “In grade 12, I met a lady named Nomzamo who came to our school – she was part of a foundation associated with Moshal and she gave us forms to apply for the Moshal scholarship.” Lindokuhle’s hard work paid off and he received the scholarship and moved to UCT to pursue his BSc degree.
Aside from perseverance, Lindokuhle also lives by other Moshal values including community and paying it forward. He’s even played a key role in an educational initiative in his community. “In 2016, my cousin who is also part of the Moshal Programme, started an NPO called “Get someone out,” based in Diepsloot,” he says. “Usually what we did was go back to our high school and teach grades 10-12 mathematics and physical sciences. We also assisted grade 12s with their university applications. I’m currently in Cape Town so I can’t participate in “Get someone out” now.” Yet that’s not stopping Lindokuhle from using his skills to inspire and educate the youth. “I’m busy talking to someone at the Leap school and I’m hoping to go there to teach maths and science.”
What lies ahead
While Lindokuhle has found his passion in Bioinformatics, he’s open to working in any area in which he can use the skills he’s developed. “Bioinformatics in SA is still at developing phase so there aren’t a lot of companies that offer jobs in the field,” he says. “So, I’m hoping to move to other industries, maybe I’ll work in banking or data science or data analysis.”
Whatever the future may hold for him, Lindokuhle is strengthened by what he’s already achieved. Asked what propelled his success despite the negative influences he faced, Lindokuhle says it’s a combination of factors. “I think it’s perseverance and having great people around me, motivating me to do well,” he says. “That’s what made me get out of the township.”
It’s also about knowing what you’re capable of, he adds. “The saying “believe in yourself” motivates me.”