National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Gerben Visser

Gerben Visser matriculated at De Kuilen High School in Kuils River, Cape Town. He is studying BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University. He was selected as one of the students for the NSTF’s Brilliants Programme in 2021.

“Hopefully, I can establish myself as a professional engineer actively engaged in an ‘electrifying’ industry!”

Tell us a bit about yourself?


I am Sabelo Langa. I’m from a small township called Nseleni in KwaZulu-Natal. I live with unemployed parents. I’m a very ambitious youngster who is determined to achieve his goals. I love challenges as they are my steppingstone to progress. I believe that I’m capable and have the potential of achieving anything in life. I’m a hard worker and can do anything I put my mind on. Even though I’m not from a rich family and didn’t have the opportunity of attending one of the best private schools I didn’t pity myself. I had a dream and a goal of changing the situation at home and of proving that something good can come out of a public school. That pushed me to do my best. So I’m a living testimony that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you are determined and consistently strive to achieve great things, you can get them. Having a vision is the most important thing in life. Currently, I am a medical student at UKZN. I chose UKZN because it is one of the top five universities in South Africa and I love their MBCHB programme as it puts you in contact with the communities and enables you to serve and reach out. It is also close to home, so it keeps me grounded. UKZN is a wonderful university with lots of diversity. I define myself as a hard worker and I toil for knowledge, because that is power and gold.

What inspires you to excel?

I used to believe it is impossible to be a top achiever in South Africa until I watched the matric results of the class of 2018. A student called David Mark Dodkins, who was the number one student in mathematics and physical sciences, was just a young boy like me who decided to dedicate his time to his studies and he was successful. From there I knew it doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from, and that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I dedicated my time to studies and I also started listening to motivational speeches to sharpen my knowledge and confidence. I developed an interest in reading and watching videos that were uploaded on the NSTF’s YouTube channel, which revealed brilliant learners who achieved excellent marks in mathematics and physical science. Looking at them made me wish to be part of the team one day and motivated me to do better in my studies.

Why you choose course you are studying?

My choice of becoming a doctor was not easy. Because of the love I have for mathematics I had to choose between two career paths. I chose medicine after I had done research and found out that doctors are really in demand in South Africa, especially in the rural areas. Also, when I was young my father had a tragic accident that left him with a fracture and immobile limb, but I thank God for the heart of doctors that helped him to recover, though it took time. Today my father is alive, and he is very mobile with no limitations. Doctors gave my siblings and I our father back. I also desire to give back fathers to their children, husbands to their wives, reunite families and bring back smiles to those who have lost hope. I also want to be an example and a leader to our youth in South Africa. I also want to be part of the frontline workers who fight against this pandemic and find a solution to it.

Tell us a bit about your school?


I studied at a public school. I matriculated in 2020 at Tholokuhle High School in the King Cetshwayo district of KwaZulu-Natal. I was privileged to be a learner there, because our teachers gave us their best. They taught us to strive for greatness and made us believe that the sky is the limit. I am the second learner to represent my school in the NSTF’s Brilliants programme and I’m really honoured to be part of it. My matric year in 2020 was not easy, because with the COVID-19 pandemic we were under strict levels of lockdown with everything shut down. Learners had no hope of returning to class. In the media we saw lives being lost every second, and some of those lives included teachers, principals and learners. But a wise man once said “We may not be able to do anything about yesterday, but we can do something about tomorrow’’. So, despite all, I never lost hope, in fact I continued to study at home with the help of programs online such as the Vodacom e-school, Mindset Learn, “Geleza Nathi” and many more. One programme I am really grateful for is TDP (Talent Development Programme) from Stellenbosch University that awarded me a laptop and a router to continue my studies. That pushed me to work even harder.

Why did you enjoy science and maths?

I love mathematics and I always made sure that I got exceptional marks in the subject. Regardless of how difficult or tricky a calculation would be, I would sweat it out until I got it right because I don’t give up easily. My love for mathematics made me neglect other subjects, but I’m grateful for my teachers and family who opened my eyes to that and told me that to become a top achiever you must excel in all your subjects, not just one. I started working harder to balance my achievement in my subjects. I found myself learning even more by helping my fellow students and engaging with them academically. The more I helped others, the better I understood the work. My first goal is to become one of the greatest known doctors in South Africa and who is the best at what he is doing. In addition I want to give my heroine, my mother, everything that she could not have because of traditions. My biggest achievement will be to have my own surgery where I come from, since we have no hospital, only two clinics.

What advice do you have for South African youth?

They should not allow themselves to be spectators and watch people succeed without including themselves. They must not doubt that they are capable and they should stop compiling a list of top achievers without seeing themselves as part of it. They should know that they can also be top achievers. Being successful and achieving is not only for geniuses or people who are naturally gifted, it is for anyone who knows they can do their best and trust themselves. Through hard work anything is possible; every person is extraordinary. As a learner you must improvise, not procrastinate. Use every resource that comes your way and respect and obey your teachers. Do your homework and assignments on time. Throughout my high school years I have learnt a lot, but the greatest lesson is, if you really want something you can achieve it. All you have to do is put your mind to it and act. Remember, don’t wait for the storm to pass, rather learn to dance in the rain. And work like a slave.

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