National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Zemfundo sees herself combating diabetes and creating awareness of the illness at an international level.

Zemfundo is studying medicine at the University of Cape Town. She matriculated at Adams College of Education in Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal.

The only barrier between you and your dreams is you. Push yourself to the edge with studying and you will see how far you will go in the end.”

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? What inspires you?


I come from the dusty and vast Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal. I am very passionate about science and technology and innovative ways to use the science and technology field to heal others. One thing that inspires me is to strive to be better than yesterday.

Why did you choose the course you are studying?

I chose to study medicine for a reason close to my heart and which I have never shared with anyone:  because of my maternal grandmother.  Ever since I can remember, I have seen my grandmother endure pain and near-death experiences due to diabetes. My grandmother had survived a low blood sugar level and landed into a coma for three days when I was five years old and survived a stroke and suffered from dementia when I was eight. One experience that will be forever engrained in me will be when she had a diabetic ulcer on her left foot, which led to her death earlier this year. My mother and I were the ones who cared for her when she had the ulcer. I would often take care of her and nurse her after school, make her food, give her pills and clean her wound. She was a difficult person since she had dementia. She would often act out and refuse the food and medication we gave her, but that experience only made my sympathy and willingness to help grow. That experience shaped me to be gentle, patient and sensitive. Seeing the effect of diabetes on one’s life over the years, made me want to lend a hand to help.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

In ten years, I would like to see myself working for the World Health Organization, combating diabetes and creating awareness at an international level and helping people to delay the age where they will acquire diabetes.

Why do you enjoy science and maths?

I learnt over the years that to every problem there is a solution, and there is a never only one way to get to the solution. One thing that I really like about science and maths is that it taught me perseverance, patience and flexibility, which built character in me. No matter how hard a challenge may seem, in the end there’s always a solution. Sometimes we may not immediately find the solution right away, but science and maths bring hope that we may find it someday, no matter how long it takes.

Where did you complete your schooling? Tell us a bit about this school and your teachers.

I completed my high schooling and matric in Adams College of Education situated in Adams Mission, Amanzimtoti. My former high school has a history of producing great leaders such as Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. It has been around for 169 years. It is also famous for producing highflyers active in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. The school focuses on science, maths and commerce. It is situated in the rural area of Adams Mission and is deeply affected by water shortages and loadshedding. Nonetheless, my former teachers have a fighting spirit to deliver content to learners. They made sure to instil discipline in us and helped us with our problem areas after school hours and even beyond into the night and even at dawn. They are very committed and dedicated teachers and passionate about education. They always emphasised the importance of education, and maths and science in particular.

Why do you think some people have problems doing well in maths and science?

I believe that no person is incapable of performing well in maths and science, but I have noticed that many teachers are not really dedicated to help their pupils who are struggling with maths and science; they want to help pupils who are already good in these subjects. We cannot blame teachers solely on these learner’s struggles in these subjects, we should know that learning is a two-way road which requires effort from both teacher and learner. Many learners have the mentality and fear that science and maths are difficult and when attempting problems, they already have “difficulty” ringing at the back of their heads, which hinders their ability to solve the problems.

What advice do you have for school learners who struggle with these subjects?

They should ask for help from their teachers and ask for extra classes. They should work through a lot of past papers with the intention of learning something new. School learners should also practice science and maths every single day to sharpen their skills and make their minds “flexible”.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?

Start preparing for your future now. Work on getting exceptional marks for your end of the year results because these are the results that higher education institutes use to select the best candidates to study at the institution of your choice. Be disciplined, since you can rely on discipline when you have run out of motivation. If you have started on the wrong note, there is still time to fix your wrongs. Remember, it’s not about how you start but how you finish. Lastly, change your mentality and attitude towards your studies; don’t view studying as a chore but as something fun and which will open a lot of doors for you in the future.

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

Apply to many higher education institutions, not only universities and universities of technology, but also technical colleges. Ask people whom you trust to apply on your behalf, since it is a lengthy process and consumes a lot of time.

Understanding excellence – what makes an achiever?

An achiever is a person who works hard to pave a path towards their dream. A person who relies on discipline more than motivation. It is a person who does not compete with others but with his/her past self, to be better than yesterday and realises that his/her only enemy is his/herself.

A message to South African youth in general?

The only barrier between you and your dreams is you. Push yourself to the edge with studying and you will see how far you will go in the end. And lastly, hard work pays off.

If you had ONE opportunity to speak directly to a very influential person, who would you choose and what would you say to them?

I would speak to Mr JC Mnguni, a principal at Reunion Secondary School and the centre manager of Umlazi Kutlwanong Promaths. Given the chance, I would thank him for the motivation he gave to me and the other learners, that was the fuel we used to carry on. The life stories he shared with us helped us to realise our full potential. Learners need people like him to keep on going and realise their full potential, because learners become fatigued.

Subscribe to our eNews

Sign up to receive news on what is happening in science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa

Copyright © 2023 All Rights Reserved | National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)