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The sky is the limit for these Unisa luminaries

Bonginkosi Ndumo and Rethabile Lekabe have the distinct honour of being Unisa’s first Gradstars, making the cut from more than 3 500 contenders across the country.

In his maiden mid-term budget statement, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba painted a bleak picture of the country’s economy. But, he did announce a few positive aspects for higher education. One of them is increasing the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to R40 billion by 2020. While this is a huge boon for students, a stagnant economy means it may be difficult to find employment.

However, there are ways for outstanding students and employees to find each other. The Top 100 Gradstar programme recognises the top 100 university students across South Africa and connects them to potential employees and business mentors.

“I found out about Gradstar through an email I received. I decided to apply after reading about the program on their website. There’s a four-stage process in order to be selected as one of the Top 100 Gradstars,” said Unisa’s Bonginkosi Ndumo. His Gradstar journey started this year when he began pursuing his Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Accounting Sciences. This is in order to fulfil his dream of becoming a chartered accountant. Ndumo and his fellow student, Rethabile Lekabe, who is also pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Accounting Sciences, have the distinct honour of being Unisa’s first Gradstars, part of a select group chosen from more than 3 500 people around the country.

Networking with like-minded individuals

“To be able to stand out after such a rigorous interview process is an honour and a privilege. I was able to network with individuals from different companies and meet fellow like-minded individuals. The calibre of the Gradstars is remarkable,” said Lekabe.

The Gradstar application is a rigorous process. It’s split into four stages—stage 1 is a Shadowmatch worksheet which identified behavioural habits such as problem solving, discipline and self-motivation, stages 2 and 3 are different questionnaires, and in stage 4 the top 500 candidates discuss a five-minute presentation to a panel of two or three people as a final assessment.

For Lekabe, part of the motivation to apply to become a Gradstar comes from the concentration needed from a student of distance learning. “Being part of Unisa instilled a high sense of discipline and required a lot of focus. I’ve joined Whatsapp and Facebook groups with students enrolled in the same course as me. Having fellow students you can converse with and engage further on with topics has been one of the biggest contributors to my academic year. The support staff at Unisa’s College of Accounting Sciences are always willing to help and respond to emails timeously,” she explained.

Unisa students are special

Despite being a star in her own right, Lekabe feels Unisa students, in general, are special. “I really do believe graduates from Unisa should be applauded once you consider the amount of effort it requires to self-study, notwithstanding the fact that most are also balancing a full time job. Unisa graduates are generally self-starters and are able to keep themselves motivated in their journey.”

It seems for these Unisa stars, they made the right choice when choosing their academic home. “I needed flexibility in terms of balancing life and school and Unisa gives me that. After discussions with others I knew for sure that Unisa would be my next academic home,” said Ndumo with a smile.

Bonginkosi Ndumo

Rethabile Lekabe

*By Kirosha Naicker

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