Hard work pays off for top SPL student

Dumisani Sondlo decided on the first day that he started studying towards his honours degree at the School of Public Leadership (SPL) at Stellenbosch University that he wanted to be the top student when he graduated.

“I was inspired when I heard Lee-Anne Toorn, the previous year’s top student, speak about the hard work she put in. I decided to, for the first time in my academic life, really challenge myself.”

His hard work paid off. He graduated Cum Laude with 78% and in the process won the PWC Best Student Trophy. Sondlo is one of a group of 108 students who enrolled for an Honours degree in 2010. 65 of them graduated within one year. According to Professor Johan Burger, head of the Postgraduate Programme of the SPL this is a remarkable achievement because most of the students are mid-career people who work full-time and therefore extend their studies over a few years. The students also had to cope with a demanding research component.

Dumisani Sondlo

“I have never before received a first place and I have never won anything before the PWC trophy,” says Sondlo.

He adds jokingly: “I also received a cash prize, but I have no idea what my wife, Nolufefe, did with it,” Maybe my success also had something to do with the birth of our baby. After the birth I thought I had fallen behind in my studies and put in extra effort.”

He is full of praise for his fellow students. “Our Honours discussion group consisted of wonderful people. We all encouraged each other and it was great to meet people from diverse sectors. There was continually a stimulating exchange of ideas between lecturers and students.”

Sondlo is the eldest of five children and says his grandfather instilled a believe in all his grandchildren that they are destined for success. “Because of my grandfather and my great faith as a Christian, I grew up believing that I could do anything. Although my parents are both teachers, herding sheep and cattle in the rural areas of eNgcobo in the Eastern Cape was part of my childhood experiences. This taught me lessons about nature that I would not have had if I had grown up in a city.”

Sondlo, who works for the Institute for Satellite & Software Applications (ISSA), a directorate of the national Department of Communications, will continue his studies – he has already started studying towards his Masters at the SPL.

Sondlo says he plans to “serve the government of South Africa at the highest level” and he wants to establish a mentorship institute where up-coming leaders from all sectors of society can be mentored.

- article written by Stephanie Nieuwoudt