Visionary Interview: “Vision AfriKa Taught Me the Importance of Teamwork,” says Siphosethu Mbuli

My name is Siphosethu “Sethu” Mbuli. I am 20 years old and in my second year at the University of Cape Town, currently working towards a BSc in Chemistry and Oceanography.

I was born and mostly raised in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, but because I believed that the grass was greener elsewhere, decided to complete my high school education in Cape Town.

As a result, I moved to the Kayamandi township in Stellenbosch and undertook my Grade 9 and 10 studies at the school there. After a couple of years, however, I won a scholarship to attend the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, from which I matriculated in 2012.

I still live with my aunts and cousins, but spend a lot of time outside the home – for obvious reasons. Being a member of a big family has taught me the importance of being assertive and speaking up for myself, however, and so I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In addition, I’m a keen reader, self-proclaimed feminist and advocate of equal, quality education for all. I also don’t mind tackling topics that make others shift awkwardly in their seats and, as a person who lives with albinism, have made discussing and speaking up on the topic top of my priority list.

Here I’d like to share my experiences of being a member of the Vision AfriKa programme and the difference it has made to my life:

Q. When and why did you join the Vision AfriKa programme?

A. I joined Vision AfriKa  – or Vision K, as it was then – in 2010, when I was in the 10th Grade. The team had visited my high school to tell us more about the programme, and I was very keen to join due to a discussion that was held about personal development and goal-oriented action, both of which were – and still are – important to me. But while filling out the application form, which asked about our academic goals and personal attributes, the first sentence that I wrote was: “Firstly, I would like to point out that such and such a word is not spelt like this, but like that instead…” All of my friends who were shortlisted went off for their face-to-face interviews, but I was so busy correcting typos that I somehow missed the call. Thankfully though, I was still accepted anyway.

Q. What key lessons did you learn from the Vision AfriKa programme?

After joining Vision AfriKa, I experienced significant growth, both personally and academically.

For example, one of their camps helping to come up with solutions to the challenges affecting the wider community. I also started to appreciate the value of having a network of people around that you can trust. For example, one of their camps helped me to understand the importance of realising your own potential and of actively

A lot of the Vision AfriKa sessions were based on group work, in which we were given a scenario and asked to come up with a creative response to it, whether that was a skit, drawing or song. It was this indirect method of discussing difficult topics that allowed me to think more independently as well as learn to articulate my views with confidence and without being derailed by different views or constructive criticism. But the main thing I took away with me was the importance of working as a team. The key issue here is to realise that, no matter how small the contribution you make to group activity, it will inevitably have an impact and serve to complement other members’ contributions.

It’s like a relay match – once you drag your feet in doing something, it has a negative affect on your peers and the rest of the organisation as a whole. I learned this not only via the Vision AfriKa sessions, but also through the dedication that the team showed in mentoring us – even though we were difficult at times and didn’t necessarily fully understand what they were trying to do.

Q. What is the biggest strength of the Vision AfriKa programme?

A. Vision AfriKa’s biggest strength, in my opinion, is that it structures its programme around the best interests of students in order to help them develop both personally and academically and, in so doing, unlock their potential and achieve their goals.

 The idea is that your own individual success can, and should, go hand-in-hand with the successful development of the wider community. And in a culture where all too many young people view giving back or being proactive as ‘uncool’, we definitely need more people to show us why it isn’t.   But by making topics and themes relevant to members of the local community, the scheme also helps learners to realise that they have a responsibility to deal with issues that directly affect everyone.

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