Thwani Sithole

Thwani Sithole has a clear sense of purpose and is making surefooted strides to achieving his goals.

Thwani Sithole is a math whizz who matriculated from Leap Science and Maths School in 2015, and knew exactly which trajectory his studies would take. “I fell in love with computer science and programming while I was still in high school,” he says. A friend invited him to a Saturday workshop hosted by Driven Alliance, a software development company, and the workshop hosts introduced him to his passion for programming.

“Initially I planned to study accounting, and computers were to be my second choice, but Mandla Magagula and Theo Bohnen (of Driven Alliance) introduced me to programming, and I fell in love with it,” he explains.

Now in his final year of studying Computational and Applied Mathematics at Wits, majoring in Applied Mathematics and Computer Sciences, Thwani says his course choice was determined by the fact that it’s the ideal blend of doing what he loves, and meeting high demand in the workplace.

The edest and only son in his family, with three younger sisters who look up to him, Thwani was born in Soweto but spent most of life – and schooling – in Diepsloot. He attended Muzomuhle Primary School and spent a year at Diepsloot West Secondary before making the move to Leap, where he excelled.

A man of distinction

Despite the hardships of learning in a crowded environment – his family lives in a two-room shack in Diepsloot – Thwani matriculated with no less than five distinctions.

In Grade 11, a teacher told him about the Moshal Scholarship Program and encouraged him to apply, he says. “It was a great feeling to be accepted to the scholarship, and it still is an honour for me to be called a Moshal Scholar,” he says.

The program has inspired him to excel – and pay it forward, says Thwani. “It’s a program like no other – they don’t just give you money and let you study – they are there to support you, they provide workshops, tutoring… it’s really more like a family,” notes Thwani.

University, he says, has proved a similarly inspiring experience. “When I got here, I met a lot of good people, most of my friends are also doing computer sciences, and their work ethic influences me a lot; we inspire each other and come up with good ideas together,” he reveals.

The young tech geek, who admits to being rather shy, is also very service-driven, and actively participates in community work where and when he can. “In school, I was part of Green Club, an environmental initiative,” he notes. He also spent time tutoring at his old high school until last year, stopping only because his workload had become restrictive. He and a friend are also working on a paying it forward initiative that will inspire and encourage other youngsters to realise their dreams, says Thwani.

Clarity of purpose

His motivation, he claims, comes from his family – and his church. “My pastor also encourages me, and whenever things become tough I think of my family, because part of the reason I am here is to do better in life, and make them proud of me,” he says.

With most of his time taken up by programming, Thwani does not get out much; he is a regular at church, and has recently taken up reading. “I recently read As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, which is about controlling your thoughts,” he says. The novel, first published in 1903, is a self-help book about the power of thought, and the principles within clearly resonates with Thwani, who has firm ideas on what works for him and what he takes on his road to achieving his dreams.

“We are not meant to be everything for everyone, and should not waste time trying to fix what we are bad at; instead, we should focus our energy on mastering what we are good at. God blessed us with unique talents and we need to spend more time sharpening them,” he believes.

The same principles, he says, applies to the people in our lives: “We cannot please everyone all the time, or be everywhere all the time. We should not try to accommodate everyone, but we should make the most of those moments we spend with those we are currently with.”

Most importantly, says the young tech whiz, we should never listen to anyone who tells us our dreams or ambitions are useless or invalid, “because no one knows our purpose here on Earth.” Clearly, this young man not only knows his purpose, but is on a well-planned mission to realise it, too.