National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Mphoentle Piliso is studying Medicine

Mphoentle Piliso is studying medicine at the University of Cape Town. Despite growing up without parents and being diagnosed with asthma in her matric year, she was one of South Africa’s top matric learners of 2017.

You are not here in this world to be average, you are here to be your best and to be awesome.

Tell us a bit about your school?

My school is based in the rural area of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape Province. It is a school where no fees are paid. We didn’t have everything we needed to make studying easy, but it was equipped with the best educators one could ask for. The tremendous support offered by the school made it much easier to be the best that you can be.

Why do you think some people have a problem with maths and science?

Many people have instilled in them the idea that maths and science are too hard, up to a point where they develop an attitude toward the subjects where they don’t even want to try anymore. For them, these subjects are only for ‘geniuses’, but according to my knowledge these subjects need resilience, hard work and dedication.

Why did you choose the course you are studying?

Medicine gives you an opportunity to do great things and help people. I love having such great responsibility on my shoulders, knowing that someday I could be the reason someone gets to see their family again. Helping people makes me feel good and allows me to grow, so I decided I wanted to be a doctor and save lives. That’s my main purpose in life.

What would you do to solve the problem?


Firstly, I’d give the students hope and motivation because no matter what you say or teach to someone, if they don’t have that hope you are adding water to a bucket full of holes. Secondly, I’ll tell them about the doors science and maths open for you in terms of careers choices. Finally, I’ll give them access to a lot of question papers as well as patient educators, because they play a huge role in how a student performs in a subject.

Why did you enjoy science and maths?

They were challenging subjects and they pushed me to work harder. I would set high goals for myself, but then I would get disappointed and that allowed me to grow. I take failure as a step towards success, because it shows that I am trying to move forward.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes mostly from myself, but also from my grandmother. I say myself because I have managed to balance every struggle in my life with my school work and have been able to put my best in whatever I do. So I always look at everything I have been through and I realise that if I could endure all that, then I can do anything. I see my grandmother as the epitome of strength because she always puts on her brave face even though you heard her crying just a few minutes ago. That, for me, pushes me to do my best and make her proud.

A message to South African youth?

Believe in yourself. Life doesn’t get easy, you get tougher. Nobody has life all figured out. If you ever hear someone say they do, just know that they are not growing. Surround yourself with dreamers and doers. You are not what happens to you, you are who you choose to be. Start where you are and use what you have to do what you can. You can’t control the past but whatever happens in your future is all up to you.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?


Study smart. Go through your question papers and start early. Push yourself, because no one else will. You are not here in this world to be average, you are here to be your best and to be awesome. Together with all that studying, give yourself time to breathe and don’t forget to take care of yourself. You are smarter than you think. Give these books your best shot, you are only a failure if you don’t try.

What advice do you have for matriculants who have to apply for places in higher education institutions?


Apply early, even if you feel like your points are below the required ones, because your final grade 12 results are the ones that will decide if you get in or not. Don’t let those marks on your grade 11 report discourage you or those emails that you didn’t get provisional acceptance put you down. Let your final results speak volumes for you.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I will be working as a qualified doctor, probably in the Eastern Cape because I want to work there for a few years before I leave the country. Hopefully I will by then have been able to help at least 10 students in high school with their financial needs and guidance, because I know how poverty can make your dreams blur.

Understanding excellence – what makes an achiever?

What makes an achiever is hard work. Being able to be challenged, pushed to the limit and still rise above it all. Being able to fail, stand up and to try again. To have a winning and fighting spirit even when nothing is working out. To be able to set your goals straight even when you feel like giving up.

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