National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Sihle Zuma is studying Chemical Engineering

Sihle Zuma is studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. He attended Reunion Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal

I believe you haven’t achieved if you haven’t helped anyone. An achiever is a person who has achieved her/his goal.

Tell us a bit about your school?


Reunion Secondary School is a school in Durban, between Umlazi and Isipingo. The teachers are hardworking, and they are all united in making sure that everything in the school goes well. Reunion Secondary School is the centre for Kutlwanong Promaths in Umlazi, which is a programme that aims to improve Maths and Science marks for students in public schools all over Umlazi District from Grade 10 to 12.

Why do you think some people have a problem with math and science? What would you do to solve the problem?


I have always waited for this question in my life. Maths and Science are just like any other subject, but because of the analytical skills required and the time that you need to spend on these is greater, our society has unfortunately convinced everyone that maths and science are hard. Let me get my point straight- maths and science are not as hard as the society thinks. The reason why some people have a problem with maths is mainly because they have told themselves that they will never achieve an 80% in these subjects. It is so painful to see how many people have given up. It breaks my heart to see people not giving maths a chance just because the society have made them to automatically think that they will fail. The society that we live in has made it hard for us to do maths, it is so normal for someone to say they don’t understand maths without even trying. When you say you have issues with history, they laugh at you. On the other hand I think we should also blame the teachers who are not doing their job well. Knowing maths does not necessarily mean that you can teach it and make somebody understand. A lot of students give up on maths mainly because of bad teachers who keep making maths look harder than it is. In summary, the main reasons why some people have issues with maths and science are the things said by society and the influence of a bad teacher. We cannot deny the fact that there are teachers who do not inspire learners with the right motivation and knowledge. Solving this issue starts with an intense training of maths teachers. It is so amazing to have a good maths teacher because they will always inspire you and encourage you in an incredibly positive way.

Why did you enjoy science and maths?

I love learning new things. In maths and science there is always going to be something new that you learn, even during revision you will always gain new information. Maths and science are just indescribably amazing. I love the “wow!” feeling you are always going to experience when learning about this wonderful field.

What inspires you?


Knowing that only education will help me achieve my goals.

Why did you choose the course you are studying?


I want to learn more about ways to design and optimise chemical processes for the manufacture of many products in demand. Dedicated in using chemical engineering to dwindle the air pollution around us and save the world. I aim to apply the marvellous chemical engineering principles in making people’s lives easier and I believe, only the best can be achieved in an environment where everybody is united in one goal – making Earth a better place for all.

A message to South African youth?

Stop listening to the negative things that people say. You are you! You know yourself you know what you want to achieve. Go out there, work hard and believe you can do it. Remember it is not about doing, it’s about how you do it. As the youth we are supposed to have fun but the most important thing is to make sure you don’t lose focus and you always remember what you’re supposed to do. Never let the distractions of the world change who you are.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?


Beware of negative peer pressure. Stay focussed. MOST IMPORTANTLY!! You must have someone to talk to whenever you feel demotivated, you need a mentor. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you rise after falling.

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


Apply for all career choices that you think you might love. Apply early. Apply in many tertiary institutions so increase your chances of getting a space next year.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I will be working for a huge engineering company.

Understanding excellence – what makes an achiever?

I believe you haven’t achieved if you haven’t helped anyone. An achiever is a person who has achieved her/his goal.

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