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Student activism cause for academic excellency

Tsholofelo Kgaswane

Being a student leader comes with enormous responsibility and unquestionable commitment to serve. So says Tsholofelo Kgaswane, the Secretary General of the National Student Representative Council (NSRC) at Unisa.

Kgaswane, who was born in a remote village called Tlokweng outside Rustenburg, never allowed economic hardships and his poor family background to deter him from pursuing his studies. He recently graduated with a National Diploma in Human Resource, majoring in Business Management, and he is currently studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Labour Relations Management.

Studying with Unisa was a natural choice for him because of its affordable tuition fees. His father was a bricklayer and couldn’t provide for his family whilst paying the exorbitant fees at other universities. Fortunately for Kgaswane, Unisa was the only institution which could make him realise his dream.

From a herdboy to a graduate, that’s how Kgaswane tells his story. His graduation was not just a ceremony but a significant milestone, which will occupy a special chapter in the history of the Kgaswane family. He is the first person in his family to graduate from a university.

“I feel overwhelmingly relieved that I have made it. I’m proud of my abilities because graduation is one of my finest achievements.  As a South African, I’m excited about the possibilities which I will bring to my country. Graduating means I have come a long way. Education is a tool to change the world and my achievements further prove my competence and affirm that I completed the path I have chosen,’’  he said.

Being born in a family of six and a family which is no stranger to politics has propelled Kgaswane to be disciplined and humble. It was in his first year that he would get concerned about student affairs and felt the need to help other students. Little did he know that his willingness to help would unleash his passion for politics, which saw him join the South African Student Congress (SASCO), and became a student activist fighting for the rights of students.

He acknowledged that being a student activist is a complex task which involves juggling between studies and meetings. However, he dismissed as a myth the notion that being a student leader is inextricably linked with poor academic performance.

“As a student leaders, we are the cream of the crop and we should celebrate it. I’m proud that as the SRC, we play a pivotal role in student life both academically and socially. I have continuously demonstrated that I can lead a balanced life that means to work hard, sacrifice, and assist students at the same time,” he said.

He said student leaders must master their responsibilities in order to avert debilitating academic performance in their activities.

“As a student activist, you have to understand that studies demand time, energy and commitment, and this will improve your leadership skills and also contribute to your academic success. You must be willing to learn from others and, most importantly, you must have the ability to relate or be creativity and innovative when solving complex student issues,” he said.

As a Secretary General Kgaswane acts as the chief administrator of the NSRC and is responsible for facilitating accountability to national student parliament on the state of the SRC. He previously served as regional secretary of the SRC at the Midlands Campus in Rustenburg.

Kgaswane believes that every person is born with certain abilities and they must work hard to harness their skills in order to succeed. He urged students to remain determined and focus sharply on their studies.

“Regardless of where you are coming from, you need to be vigilant and remain open minded and considerate about many when you are studying. To succeed in your studies requires clear objectives, motivation, planning, self-discipline, self-confidence, good study habits and a positive attitude. Above all, being physically fit,” he said.

He added that students must realise that studying is the most wonderful opportunity a person can use to shape the course of history and to redefine their own path.

“As a student you are given an excellent opportunity to develop not just your study skills, but also many other skills useful in life. These skills will help you to succeed beyond graduation,” he concluded.

*By Percy Mthombeni