- Tebogo Mashifana is one of the youngest lecturers at the University of Johannesburg, however she came from the humblest of upbringings
- Her father taught her mathematics using small stones and spent the profits from his spaza shop on educating her
- She wants to use her skills to empower young graduates to become entrepreneurs and has published over 30 engineering papers
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By Farai Diza - Freelance journalist
Townships and rural areas are synonymous with spaza shops. Very few success stories which have a connection with spaza shops have been told.
Life is an oasis of opportunities. While many rural school children do have little hope of making it under the bright city lights in Johannesburg, some have continued to inspire by achieving their dreams.
Tebogo Mashifana was born and bred in a small Limpopo village called Sehlakwane in Groblersdal. She had hopes of leaving Sehlakwane and working in a laboratory to develop medical solutions.
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Destiny would have it her way as she rose above rural-hood to make her mark in the world of engineering. She obtained a PhD in engineering aged just 31.
Today the 34-year-old is one of the youngest lecturers at the University of Johannesburg and her future does appear bright. Mashifana has published over 30 engineering papers as well as journal articles.
Her parents, Johannes (60) and Christinah Phetla (61), ran a spaza shop that supplied her village with bread and mealie meal. The desire to educate their children is what drove the spaza shop owners to succeed.
Through the profits they made, they were able to take their children to better schools outside Sehlakwane.
"My parents have always valued the importance of education and that is what made them special to me. Even though they never got the opportunity to have an education themselves, they still believed we could be better people in life through education," she said.
Spaza shops are a common business in South Africa, especially in townships and rural areas. According to Mashifana, the spaza shop that made her what she is today is still operational.
"When I look back I recollect the times my dad would teach me mathematics using small stones. Whether it was addition or subtraction, he would use stones and always made sure that I understood," she said.
The St Gregories College alumni alwayed picture herself wearing a white coat and working in a laboratory. Mashifana takes pride in being one of the lecturers at the University of Johannesburg who are celebrated for their academic achievements.
Her calling came in the form of a lecturing role at one of the biggest universities in South Africa. She has seen it as a gateway to empower young graduates with the skills she has obtained.
"Higher learning institutions are obligated to prepare graduates for the workforce so that they become employable. But at the same time are we moulding our graduates to become employers. Entrepreneurial skills help the graduates with master skills that will help them solve problems in their communities," she added.
The mother of two rarely has time to rest on her laurels. She founded a foundation that offers career guidance.
Known as the Dr Tebogo Mashifana and Partners Foundation, the organisation supplies school uniforms and shoes to the disadvantaged children of her rural home of Sehlakwane. It all began in that spaza shop and with her parents' vision of educating their children.
Lady celebrates landing her dream job
Briefly News previously reported, is it just not amazing when it all comes together like that perfect ensemble at a theatre production? Mzansi thinks so, courtesy of one woman's story of how she's recently had her dreams come true.
Taking to social media, a Twitter user, @Sandi_Mbatha, made it her business to tell the world that her stars have aligned in the most unimaginable way.
The tweet read:
"I got a job in my field of study and in a new city. Thank you, God."