Murunwa Netshingodololwe

Having lost her father to diabetes, Murunwa Netshingodololwe was driven to improve healthcare through working in drug design and development. Now in her final year of a BSc in biochemistry at University of Pretoria, she’s on the path to realising her dream. 

“I lost my father because there were poor drugs and poor vaccines when he was admitted to the hospital,” says Murunwa. “I thought I could bring about change with regards to drug development and design. I’ve also seen a lot of shortage of vaccines and seen many people suffering because of this. So, I also want to work on new vaccines, and on improving vaccines and limiting shortages. That has been my drive since my father’s death when I was 15-years-old.”

Making her father proud

Murunwa knew that her father’s death meant that she’d have more responsibility. “It was hard knowing that the breadwinner was gone,” she says. “I’m the firstborn child – I have two younger siblings. Dealing with the loss wasn’t easy but I always remembered that I had to make my father proud. He knew that I could make anything possible and that I’m determined and good at what I do. The last words he said to me always rang in my mind – “You have to make it”. So, I had to pull myself together.”

Taking her father’s words to heart, Murunwa worked hard and received a scholarship in the very same year of his death. “From grade 10 to matric, I was able to study at a private school in Joburg – St Martins in Rosettenville. That helped keep me together and motivated me to be strong and make my father proud. I worked hard to become a breadwinner for my siblings and my mother.”

An academic journey

“Education has been the key to improving my life,” says Murunwa. “Ever since my primary school days, I’ve been competitive in athletics and in academics. I’ve always loved school.” Growing up in the rural village of Tshandama in Limpopo, Murunwa was empowered by a youth foundation. “Its main focus was to uplift youth in their education,” she says, “and I joined when I was in primary school. The organisation motivated me to work hard, especially when I saw people who had succeeded. I wanted to be like them. I know that I’m nothing without education. I’m relying on education to be a successful person in the future and to become what I want to be.”

The Student Scholarship Programme, through which Murunwa attained her high school bursary, partnered with Moshal. “The Moshal Scholarship has been everything to me,” she says, “financially, academically and emotionally. Moshal has been so supportive. Last year, I was really sick and thought that maybe I wouldn’t make it to final year. But Moshal was there and even contributed to my medical expenses. They’re like a proper family, they help me with everything that I need. When you’re at university, you can get stressed or depressed easily but with Moshal you know you always have support – someone to speak to and to help you. I’ll forever be grateful for how they’ve helped me through my university journey.”  

Notes on the wall

Murunwa has two important notes on her wall. The first is a list of the Moshal values. “Every time I see someone struggling it hits me hard, I always want to help and do something,” she says. “I think that’s because of Moshal. After learning the Moshal values for the past few years, they’ve stuck. I look at the them on my wall every time I’m studying. They’ve changed the person that I was before, I’m someone new. I always think about integrity and doing the right thing even when people aren’t watching.”

Inspired by Moshal, Murunwa also pays it forward within her community. “I do a lot of volunteer work at home because I’m from a very disadvantaged, rural area. I’m part of an organisation that takes students from rural areas, who were fortunate enough to go to university, back to the schools they came from. These schools don’t have enough teachers or resources and they don’t know much about university and bursaries. So, we go back to the schools, tell the kids about university and mentor and tutor them.”

The second note on Murunwa’s wall is an anonymous poem called That kind of a woman. Murunwa’s inspired by the lines: “Be the kind of woman that people make way for. Be the kind of woman that takes responsibility into their own hands… Be the kind of woman who won’t let the fact that she doesn’t have life all figured out hold her back.”

“This poem motivated me to be that kind of woman,” says Murunwa. “I know I can achieve anything so it pushes me and reminds me that I have this, I can do this.”