UWC Undergrads shine in GradStar Awards
The GradStar top graduates competition: 26 universities, 3500 entrants, and one university with fully half of the top 10 graduates in South Africa (and 14 of the top 100) – the University of the Western Cape.
This was the result after receiving thousands of entries from across the country and putting the entrants through a rigorous four-phase judging process.
The University has done exceptionally in the 2016 GradStar Awards, set up to recognise the Top 100 university students across South Africa and connect them with potential employers, as well as business mentors who will assist them in getting ready for the workplace.
The Top 100 candidates went through a rigorous four-phase judging process, which led to employer workshops in September, culminating in selecting students regarded as “Ten of the Finest”.
And the two top graduates from UWC – and the country – are law students, Freddy Kido (25), who is number one on the list of top graduates, and Yolanda Bam-Mguye (28), second on the list.
Freddy Kido: Learning from Others And Giving Back, Too
For top gun Kido, a second-year Law student from Windhoek, Namibia, it was also a bit of a run-around before he finally enrolled at UWC.
The middle child of four siblings, he matriculated in 2010 and received a scholarship offer to complete my studies overseas – but had to turn it down for personal reasons.
“I thought it was the end of my dreams,” Kido recalls. “So I found a job at the bank, worked for a few months and then applied for an opportunity to come to South Africa and complete my aviation training at a flight college in the Eastern Cape.”
He completed his PPL (Private Pilot License) ground school training as well as his ab initio air traffic aerodrome control course, and worked in the aviation industry while also enrolled at the University of Namibia for his Bachelors of Laws (Honours) degree, only completing a year and a half of it – it wasn't easy studying full-time while also employed on a full-time basis.
“But I've always been interested in studying law from a very young age,” he says. “I remember, in Grade 6, my dad asked me what it was I wanted to become – and I said I wanted to be a lawyer.”
At school, being part of the school debating team counted in his favour, and this decision led to him competing on a national level – and convinced him that law was definitely for him.
“I don't think I am very academically-oriented,” he says. “Academics are important, yes, but there is more to me than just sitting in front of books all day – and there's a lot more to law than that.”
For example: he's a keen hockey player, and he often spends time training with UWC's second women's hockey team – since there is no men's team, and where others just see problems, go-getters like Kido find solutions. “If I believe in something I go for it, no matter what anyone else says.”
His advice for the advancement of globalisation: try to carefully weigh input from every person within a society, from the well-established businessman to the poorest beggar – and importantly from students.
The GradStar award was a welcome surprise. “This award is great; I'm still in shock actually. It gave me exposure to and the opportunity to engage with brilliant students across South Africa. And the prospects of finding a job in such a competitive market are made easier: I've already been called by three of the country's top law firms. Now more than ever I am more motivated to work to my best abilities and reaffirm my sense of direction,” says Kido.
“As an international student, I am able to compare and contrast Namibia and South Africa, and there is so much that we can learn from each other – I always encourage my friends to visit other countries and learn from other people. I have learned so much from South Africans that I am really keen to graduate, go home and just use the skills and attributes I've acquired to make a difference. I want to start a free law clinic in my community to help educate my people about their rights.”
He says he is grateful to his grandmother for her support and inspiration. “Everyone that knows me on a personal level knows how much I love that lady. She has been through so much, yet never complained about the hardships she had to endure, and made sure that her children and grandchildren had the opportunity to study. She is my confidant and everything I stand to believe.”
Being able to represent his university in such a way, coming out tops is a great feeling.
“It just confirms that UWC has a lot of potential. To think we took 5 places in the Top 10 in the country. Being recognised as one of the top law students in the country confirms the greatness of the UWC Law Faculty. We have to take the awards as ‘I am UWC’ students and we are here to do as much as we can,” says Kido.
Yolanda Bam-Mguye: Developing True Leaders At UWC
It is also not surprising that the confident and inventive second-year Law student, ,Yolanda Bam-Mguye from Oakglen in Bellville, was chosen in second place, which she feels is an immense honour.
“I'm studying law at UWC at the moment, and this is my second chance at an education – one that I'm financing myself this time around. My circumstances are definitely more challenging, especially since I'm married and have a two-year-old daughter, Elo.”
She explained what they were evaluated on. “Selection was not only based on our academic performance, but on our involvement in University life as well. They looked at whether we were leaders in our own space and within the university community. And it was exciting to be part of the online tests that were part of the selection process. We did some Maths and English tests and finally a video interview.
Bam feels being a bit older has actually helped her in her studies. “I think because I'm older and more responsible, I am more focused and I can do more. I think what counted in my favour is that I worked for nine years building my beauty business before I enrolled for the law degree at UWC.”
Yolanda is an active member of the UWC Moot Society, developing her legal skills with mock trials and debates. And she helped establish a public speaking co-curricular activity – the True Leaders Forum - which may also have counted in her favour.
“During my interaction with other students I noticed that self-esteem and confidence issues were prevalent,” she explains. “Students were often apprehensive to speak up in class or voice their opinions – not ideal for law students, since their future jobs will largely entail getting their point across and arguing their point in a public space.”
The True Leaders Forum – just started this year and already composed of over 300 members from all faculties – is a cross-curricular organisation that trains students to do public speaking and panel discussions for hot topics or current issues.
“It is an effective way of bringing people out of the shadows; a safe space for students to develop – and we can already see the results.”
GradStar: Honouring our Future Leaders
The GradStar programme, sponsored by FNB and Fasken Martineau, was set up by BlackBark Productions (creators of the Rising Star Awards) and GradConnection, and matches the country’s best future graduates with potential employers and business mentors. It provides participating employers and the Top 100 graduates access to each other in a uniquely developed programme that focuses on quality connections, and complements existing employer programmes.
The GradStar awards recognise and shine a light, in a way not currently seen elsewhere, on the best and brightest graduates and future leaders coming out of South African universities.
The top 14 UWC Gradstar Award winners (in no particular order) are:
Andile MiyaLLB IV
David HendricksB Com I.S II
Freddy KidoB Com Law III
Jaclisee Lorene MayomaM. Arts Language and Communications
Jason van der SchyffB Arts II English
Ken KrugerB Com Economics and Finance
Sanelisiwe MhlambuM Sc Geology
Tendai SamkangeM Sc Pharmaceutics
Themba MbangataB Com Honours Economics
Wikus BothaB Com I.S III
William MosesB Com I.S II
Wongakazi PambukaB Sc Honours Computer Science