Family’s first to graduate

CELEBRATION: Simphiwe Mazibuko's family has supported him throughout his studies. Pictured from behind are his father, Buti and sister Ntompifuthi. From left to right are his sisters, Jabulile and Nonkululeko, Simphiwe and his mother Thenji. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

CELEBRATION: Simphiwe Mazibuko’s family has supported him throughout his studies. Pictured from behind are his father, Buti and sister Ntompifuthi. From left to right are his sisters, Jabulile and Nonkululeko, Simphiwe and his mother Thenji. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

The last born and only son in his family, but the first to walk the steps of the Great Hall and graduate, Simphiwe Mazibuko’s five year journey concluded with a BSc in maths, economics and risk.

Supportive family

Like many Witsies’, he was not immune to the challenges that come with the edge.  His father, Buti Mazibuko, was a  machine operator and mother, Thenji Mazibuko, a florist, worked hard to fund his studies.  When it became too expensive for them, his studies were funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Moving to Joburg “was very painful” for his family, according to his eldest sister, Jabulile.

“We were even crying when we left him here, even my dad’s heart was broken.  But we knew he would finish because he is a hard worker,” she said.

Jabulile has two children of her own who look up to their uncle Simphiwe and want to study at Wits because of him.

For his family, seeing him graduate makes them proud considering the sacrifices they made.  Buti took the day off work to see his son graduate.  For his son’s future he hopes “he works and gets a business to provide for his family.”

His mother, Thenji,  said she worried when she left Simphiwe at Wits.

“At first I was scared when he went to Wits, that he would get involved with the wrong friends and face peer pressure … but he never did something wrong.  He finished.  He came to do what he wanted to do.  He has been good,” she said.

Mathematical interest

Simphiwe grew up in Duduza township outside of Johannesburg and initially intended to complete a Bachelor of Actuarial Science (BActSci) degree but had to complete an extended BSc programme to qualify for the course.  A year after he qualified for actuarial science, he decided to pursue a BSc in mathematical science, economics and risk instead.

I try and give back, especially when I look at where I come from.  I help where I can, use what I know can help.

Simphiwe had an interest in maths since high school and when he was in grade nine developed an interest in the field of actuarial science and built up an aptitude for numbers.

“University maths is different to maths in high school, you build a different perspective of maths,” he said. However, the difficulty of his programme has not deterred him and he plans on returning to do his Honours in maths.

Simphiwe said he always wanted to come to Wits.

“I just saw myself here and not anywhere else I guess,” he said.

During his studies he tutored matric maths for three years.  Three of his former students received distinctions in maths at the end of last year.

“I try and give back, especially when I look at where I come from.  I help where I can, use what I know can help,” he said.

Simphiwe now works for Santam and divides his time between Johannesburg and Cape Town. He took the day off work to graduate.  His sisters, Nonkululeko and Ntompifuthi, said although their brother is serious, he always makes them laugh.

This article is featured in the Wits Vuvuzela

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