Mkhondo matriculated at 14 years old, having skipped Grades 5 and 9. He is the first of his family to graduate from a university, and he says his family was “a great motivating factor”. Born in Soshanguve, the now 20-year-old was raised by his grandmother in Bushbuckridge. It was in this small town that Mkhondo realised his potential. Frustrated by the lack of role models in his local community, he proactively sought to find role models in South Africa and beyond. “I took responsibility,” Mkhondo said, adding that he went to an under-resourced school where students were not academically motivated. “It’s easy to blame the teachers,” he stressed, adding that he decided not to let his environment “limit” him.
Mkhondo applied to various universities in his matric year although he knew his family would not be able to afford university fees. “I have always been a big dreamer,” he admits. Once he realised his dream of being an actuary, he sought to find other qualified people in the field to take on as his role models. “I would look them up on Facebook,” he said, in order to contact them for advice.
Mkhondo’s perseverance and determination saw him through his studies, from his first year when he did not have any bursaries, to his academically strenuous final year. Despite all of these challenges, he managed to pass all his modules in his final year. “Endurance is the hardest part […] The challenges I’ve faced have brought out a new, stronger version of myself,” Mkhondo told UP’s Department of University Relations. “There is no space to be comfortable,” Mkhondo stressed, as for him, failure was never an option.
In his local community of Soshanguve, Mkhondo said he was revered for his academic excellence. He described his graduation party – held in Soshanguve – as a “movie”. “It brought all my family together,” he said. Amid the praise he received at his celebrations, Mkhondo realised the impact he has on his community, particularly to those younger than him. He said academic excellence is not especially recognised, simply because it is not the norm for young people to further their studies. According to him, crime is the norm for many young people in the townships. “People dream by what they see,” he explained, claiming that not everyone can be “enlightened”. “Those who are enlightened have the responsibility to be a positive [influence and] to show that success is possible” he said – “The power of inspiration is great.”
Mkhondo is currently pursuing an honours degree in Actuarial Sciences and is also a Statistics tutor on Mamelodi campus. He hopes to study further and attain a masters degree in a related field, and thereafter venture into the corporate world. He also aspires to venture into entrepreneurship as he “doesn’t want to be just an employee.” Mkhondo hopes to be an inspiration to black children such as himself who grew up in the townships.