Unlocking potential for greatness.

Zondo Nhlakanipho

BSc. Actuarial Science & Fin. Maths. (year 3), University of Pretoria

It all seemed impossible until I began. Nhlakanipho Zondo is an Actuarial Science student at the University of Pretoria who has defied the odds and pursued his dream of becoming one of the handful black actuaries in South Africa with unwavering determination. Growing up in a disadvantaged community, I faced numerous financial challenges that made accessing higher education seem like an impossible dream. However, that changed on one of the windy July days of 2017 When Mr. Gumede from SAADP came to my school to introduce us to Actuarial Science.

1. Finding Actuarial Science

I was good at Mathematics, and I always knew that I wanted to do it all my life. I did not have a specific thing or an idea of what is it that I really wanted to do, and I applied for any degree like MBCHB and the likes just to land a spot in a university.

Deep down I knew it was not what I wanted for myself because blood terrifies me. Until that dusty day in July, when I got to be introduced to something that combined my love for mathematics & computers. After that presentation, I was filled with so much joy and happiness that I had finally found a career that described all I was and more. And that was Actuarial Science.

2. My experience at the University of Pretoria

University of Pretoria (UP) then became my first choice and I got to meet the SAADP programme coordinator at UP, Mrs. Lehobo. I felt like had I found a mother who understood my lows and highs, there are days when things were going south and whenever I went to the “sweets” office, I would always come out feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

My experience has not been a smooth sailing one. Nonetheless, I have peace of mind as I know that someone is taking care of all my financial needs. I encountered failure for the first time in my life which was the hardest pill to swallow.

My head started getting filled with doubt and I lost a big chunk of self-confidence. However, I remember Mrs Lehobo telling me that “Nhlaka, this is not the end of the world, you can still do this.” This was something that I had started to believe it was impossible to achieve but those words gave me the tenacity to soldier on.

3. The joy of being a member of the SAADP@UP family

The impact of being part of SAADP family was profound. The friendships I made through this programme have carried me until now and they have formed part of the support system I always go to when things get hectic. With the financial burden lifted, I was able to immerse myself in my studies and focus on my academic growth. Also, the academic support and emotional support catered for by SAADP, made university life a lot easier. The bursary not only relieved the financial strain but also served as a powerful affirmation of my potential and capabilities.

On my first year, I spent a lot of time worrying about not failing and never paying attention to myself was one of the things that made me fail. That was when I realised that having a balanced lifestyle is good for boosting one’s academic performance. I then decided to join Mountain Club and do more of hiking and rock climbing. Throughout my educational journey I have demonstrated a deep passion for community development and wellbeing. I have actively been engaged in volunteering my time to help non-profits closer to my residence and advocating for SDG 4: quality education. My commitment to making a positive difference in my community has groomed me into a responsible citizen.

Reflecting on my journey, I am immensely grateful for the SAADP bursary that changed the trajectory of my life. It provided me with the tools, opportunities, and confidence I needed to reach my dreams. Today, I work tirelessly to empower marginalized communities like the one I grew up in, implementing sustainable development projects, and advocating for social change. I am committed to paying forward the support I received by mentoring aspiring students and helping them access educational opportunities.

4. Advice for aspirant black actuaries

To anyone who wants to pursue a career in actuarial science, you will be embarking on a rewarding and intellectually stimulating path. I always took it lightly but make sure you DO NOT fall behind with your lectures. When you get to second year, apply for vacation work opportunities available, they make you gain relevant work experience. Seek mentorship, have extracurricular activities that gives you a break from thinking about lectures all the time and always remember that becoming an actuary is a journey that takes time and dedication.

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