Noluthando Dludla has not only worked hard to better her own circumstances, she’s doing the same for others. With plans to pursue a Masters in radiopharmacy next year, she’s dedicated to finding new ways of tackling cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Currently in her final year of her pharmacy degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) Noluthando initially wanted to study medicine but soon found that her passion lay in pharmacy. “I love that pharmacy challenges me so much and there’s a lot you can do with it, including either working directly with patients or in research,” she says.
For Noluthando, cancer research has become her career focus. “Once I finish my degree at the end of this year, I’m planning to go and do my Masters in radiopharmacy, a field not very common in South Africa,” she says. “In radiopharmacy you deal with the radioactive materials that are usually used to treat and diagnose cancer.” Once she completes her studies, Noluthando hopes to work in the oncology field and develop new cancer drugs.
In making her decision to specialise, Noluthando says it will open many doors for her. “There are a lot of job opportunities in the field because it’s not very common here and there’s a shortage of radiopharmacists here in SA. I’d like to fill that gap and help patients with cancer, a disease that’s very common in our country.”
All about education
Having been raised by her grandmother, Noluthando knew she’d need to work hard to better her circumstances. “I grew up in in KZN with my grandmother, the one person who always took care of me and supported me,” she says. “Although she was a pensioner, she also had a side business as a street vendor, but then she got too old to do that, so she only relied on the pension. It was just her, my cousins and myself.”
Noluthando saw education as the key to building a better future for herself. “Education was important to me was because that was the only way for me to get out of poverty,” she says. “It was the only option available to me to better myself. I usually got straight As, and I was able to get seven distinctions for matric. That’s how I got into university.”
For Noluthando, Moshal has provided the platform she needed to fulfil her dreams. “I applied for the Moshal scholarship when I was still in matric,” she says. “It’s changed my life in so many ways. I don’t know how I would have been able to finance my studies up until now if the scholarship wasn’t there – I didn’t have anyone to pay for me, so it’s freed me from financial worry. The support we get outside of the money, including exam preparation support and annual events, is also really amazing.”
The Moshal value of perseverance has been especially important to Noluthando. “There were times where I felt like giving up and then I remembered that I had the Moshal scholarship and support, so why would I do that?” she says. Overcoming the loss of her grandmother last year was particularly difficult for Noluthando and also led to thoughts of giving it all up. “But I realised should be continuing my studies for her because she was the one who kept me going all the way.”
Paying it forward by inspiring others to go to university is also very important to her. “As I go forward in my career, I hope I can inspire more students from my high school to go to university,” she says. “There are currently four students from my high school here at the university and I always try my best to check that they’re doing ok and help them when I can. That’s how I plan on paying it forward – by getting more people motivated to come to university and continue their studies.”
In pursuit of a goal
Noluthando has a strong drive and desire to achieve. “I need to be a radiopharmacist, to be the first one from UKZN,” she says. “I also need to make it for my parents and my late grandmother. I want to make sure that wherever my grandmother is, she’s part of me. That’s why I won’t give up.” Noluthando and her friends also keep one another going through tough times.
When things get difficult, Noluthando also speaks to her high school teachers. “To stay positive, I speak to them because they’re the ones who know me best,” she says. “They remind me of who I am, which motivates me to work hard, to achieve and to pass. That’s where I find my motivation. I always remember that this is the goal and I must keep pushing until it’s achieved.”