Service leadership drives Songe Makangela to giving back – and medicine, he says, is the fuel that will power his community
When Songe Makangela was still at school, his mother made a decision that inspired him: the former retail cashier entered university as a mature student to study horticulture.
Not surprisingly, Songe says his family have been a great inspiration to him. “My mom has been amazing. She’s been strong enough to raise me on her own. I’ve also been inspired by my uncle who was the first member of our family to attend university and is now a lawyer. He was always a role model for me,” he says.
Now in his second year MBChB at Stellenbosch University, Songe grew up believing he would go to university. “What I didn’t realise until that point however, was that you are not guarenteed a place; you have to earn your way in. So I had to start working,” he says.
Studying, he adds, “really challenges me and I love a challenge”. He particularly enjoys the hospital sessions and the practical applications of what he has learnt in class. “The hospital sessions have made me even more motivated to practise medicine,” he says.
Songe was born in the Eastern Cape town of Engcobo. An only child, he was brought up by a single mother, who moved them to Cape Town at an early age. “My earliest memories of being at home are of sitting doing my homework and waiting for my mom to come home from work,” he says.
Songe attended St Agnes R.C. Primary school in Woodstock then went on to SACS High School on a fully-funded Students For A Better Future (SBF) scholarship. “My school life was all about balance. Aside from my studies, I enjoyed taking part in sports and cultural activities like choir and drama,” he says.
He did regard himself as a future leader while he was at school. “At that point, I was trying to avoid any responsibilities. I was more interested in having fun and focusing on myself,” he says.
An inspiring influence
Songe is extremely grateful for the inspiring influence of his St. Agnes Primary School Grade 7 teacher, Ian van Driel – who still teaches at the school. “He was always actively involved in the lives of his students. I spent a lot of time with him after school and he was like a father figure to me. I had become a bit rebellious and when he spoke to me about it, something inside me shifted. It was a real wake-up call to change my attitude and my behaviour,” he says. That was when Songe’s competitive streak came to the fore, along with a desire to excel.
Songe arrived at University filled with enthusiasm and determination, but without any funding – and essentially in arrears. When he got the call informing him that he’d been awarded the Moshal Scholarship: “I was ecstatic,” he says.
Being part of the Moshal community means that he is part of a bigger family, says Songe, adding that he is grateful for the support that he receives from Moshal on many levels. “I know if I have something that I need to talk about, or any issues that are challenging me, or even if I just want to hang out, I now have a wide circle that I can turn to. There are people on campus and off-campus that I can always phone to chat to, or visit if I want to,” he explains.
Songe also enjoys hanging out with his fellow students. He says he was quite introverted in high school and didn’t have a lot of friends, but that all that changed when he arrived at Stellenbosch, moved into residence and got involved in taking part in their annual Vensters production – a first year tradition.
Songe has recently started working on an outreach service project, reading to children in hospitals. “This is extemely rewarding for me, to be able to give back,” he says. “Giving back is a huge aspect of being a healthcare professional, of being a Moshal student and of being who I am. Giving back and service play a large role in where I have come from – and I believe medicine is one of the best ways to serve my community and my country,” he adds.
Songe retains the love of sports he developed at school, and rates basketball as a strong passion – one he is keen on introducing to township youth. “I play for my residence at the moment, and my future plans include playing, coaching, assisting and exposing township youth to the game of basketball,” he says.
Songe believes happiness stems from being open to the myriad possibilities life has to offer. “Open your mind and open yourself to what is out there,” he advises. “Be willing to accept help and advice from others, but learn to say ‘No’ when something doesn’t feel right for you.”