Thank you to all for the opportunity and support
My name is Refilwe Mofokeng. I am an Master of Science (MSc) student in the Zoology Department at the University of Zululand. I was fortunate enough to be one of the two students in the country to receive the Prestigious Nelson Mandela scholarship to study part of my MSc as an exchange student at Leiden University, Netherlands in 2013. It was truly an amazing experience as I had the opportunity to meet people from places I never knew existed and I got to go to places I have always dreamt of someday visiting and living, and shopping in Amsterdam was one of those unforgettable experiences.
The Dutch have a deeply rooted culture and a museum for just about everything you can think of, which was exciting for me as it gave me real insight into the Dutch culture. I also got to learn about different cultures as the Leiden University is a well-integrated university and it attracts students from all corners of the world. More importantly however, Leiden University prides itself in its high academic standards. I got the opportunity to enrol for an MSc. coursework in industrial ecology in Leiden and Delft Universities which have formed partnerships with each other. This was a great opportunity for me as industrial ecology is a relatively new programme which seeks to reconcile ecology and the economy as we know that industries are the main contributors of the economy as well as the main consumers of the environment. The industrial ecology course was particularly of interest to me as I have a surface mining engineering certificate and am currently completing an MSc in ecotoxicology, thus I have background from both the industrial and ecology fields. These two fields are in extreme opposite ends and often contradict with one another. I found the Industrial ecology program to be a very crucial one as it brings the two fields together and attempts to find a way to ensure that both sectors get to benefit which will result in a more stable economy.
I also had the opportunity to work again with the University of Siena in Italy, where I spent 6 months in 2012 doing some research and am looking to publish at least two articles with them by the end of this year. I also had the opportunity to visit the Masarykova University in Brno, Czech Republic where I was trained to operate some of the world class and most recent equipment they had in their laboratories.
Through all my experiences, I have come to realise that South Africa is potentially the wealthiest country in the world as we have just the right environment, just the right diversity in every sense of the word and we also have a considerable portion of untouched land as well as access to big data. As the world economy is fast going bio-based, it is important that we realise this now so that we can start working together towards our full potential as a country.
I would like to thank the Nelson Mandela Foundation for this wonderful opportunity and experience. The University of Zululand has been very supportive throughout my experiences, particularly the International Linkages Office, the Acting Dean of students Dr Zethu Mkhize, who was supportive even when I was abroad. I would also like to thank the following for all their support and encouragement: the Dean of the Faculty of Science & Agriculture, Prof Muzi Ndwandwe; the Department of Zoology, Mr Mzimla; Prof Cyrus for believing in me, my Supervisor Dr L. Vivier; the Vice Chancellor, Prof Fikile Mazibuko who has been both a role model and source of inspiration to me. Finally I would like to thank my family for all their support and love, particularly my mother who has been there through it all.
Story: Refilwe Mofokeng, Masters Student, UNIZULU