Always a high achiever, Tebogo Mosiamo knows exactly where she’s headed. Currently doing her BSc honours in occupational hygiene she plans to one day start a business that will enable her to empower others.
Tebogo initially found her way to occupational hygiene through a postal error. “When I first applied to the University of Pretoria, I wanted to do medicine, but my papers were late because of post office strikes,” she recalls. “So, I decided to do a BSc in biochemistry and planned to do medicine after my third year. As I continued with biochemistry, I took physiology as one of my modules and noticed how closely it was connected to medicine. In third year, I took industrial physiology as an extra module and really started enjoying it. I saw how it deals with the stressors that affect the health of the workers and how we can prevent them from becoming sick. So, I decided to do my honours in occupational hygiene. While I wouldn’t be a doctor, I’d be working with doctors and helping people too.”
A grandmother’s love
Tebogo’s desire to help people was born out the love she felt growing up in the East Rand township of Thokoza. “I never had any contact with my father and my mother passed away when I was in grade 5 so my little brother and I lived with my grandmother,” she says. “Growing up was not that tough but my grandmother and my aunt were the only people that we had. I spent most of my time with my grandmother – she was the one supporting us, and she wasn’t working because she was a pensioner.”
Tebogo excelled at school and was the top achiever from grades 10-12. “My aunt has always encouraged me to work very hard, she’s someone that believes in education. She told me that no-one’s going to force you to work hard if you don’t push yourself. I always remember her words – it’s my responsibility to make sure I do well.” Tebogo has more than lived up to the challenge.
“When I finished school, I knew I wanted to go to varsity, but I didn’t have funds,” she says. “My grandmother wanted to sell her house so that I could go to school. It was tough.” In the end Moshal came to the rescue.
But when she was finally at UP, Tebogo faced more obstacles. “During my first year my grandmother got sick,” she says. “She was living alone as my aunt was in Pretoria. I was so stressed that I failed one of the modules – I had to write a supplementary exam.” Tebogo passed the exam and her grandmother’s health improved and so too did Tebogo’s marks. In second year, she did so well that she received an award from Moshal for the best performance. “But then in third year my grandmother got very sick again, so she had to move out of her house and come to Pretoria to live with my aunt, where she now lives.”
Tebogo says she kept going because she wanted to make her grandmother proud. “That’s the thing that gave me strength. The support from Moshal and from my coordinator Simon, who gave me advice when I felt like I wasn’t coping, motivated me too. I always speak to my grandmother about how I feel, and she tells me that now anything can happen to her, so I should just focus on my studies and look after my little brother. Knowing that I have someone who looks up to me – my little brother –gives me strength every day.”
Using her career to pay it forward
Tebogo lives by the Moshal values of perseverance, integrity and paying it forward. “I believe that perseverance is one of the strongest values in Moshal, because without it, you won’t be able to reach your goals,” she says. “Being able to persevere is what got me to my honours year. Had I decided to drop out in first year because it was really difficult, I wouldn’t be here.”
Tebogo has a clear vision for her future, deeply rooted in her desire to pay it forward. “Ten years from now, I’m planning to open my own occupational hygiene consultancy. I plan to take university students learners who are studying occupational hygiene or similar subjects and give them exposure to the work environment. I think most of the people don’t get that chance. If it wasn’t for Moshal, I wouldn’t have experienced what I have so far. I plan to hire some of these students. Because it won’t be possible to hire everyone, I also hope to connect with a big company who can hire them too. That’s how I’ll use my career to pay it forward.”
While she’s had to overcome a lot, it’s never stopped Tebogo from taking risks. The quote that most inspires her epitomises the power of this strategy: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair.