Dr Gugu Mnguni, a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Health, has been nominated by one of her students, Nhlanhla Chili, as an Employee of the Week on Ukhozi FM. Nhlanhla was responding to a call-in programme on Ukhozi FM, which has the biggest listenership of any radio station in South Africa, with over 7 million listeners.
What makes Dr Mnguni stand out is the decision she took when she joined the University in February 2018. “I made a conscious decision that I would try and give my students the best I can, irrespective of whether it is part of my job description or not. I wanted to make sure I unleash their full potential and make them to be ahead above the rest,” said Dr Mnguni. She said she had no limits when it comes to helping her students, “even when it means I move out of my comfort zone. For instance, with lockdown I thought to have lectures after midnight to eliminate connectivity data issues. Thankfully, it worked very well,” said Dr Mnguni.
What motivates Dr Mnguni is the relationship she has with her students. Her students are driven, self-motivated and goal-orientated. She said her students push themselves, which makes it easy for her to push them even further, maximising their learning.
This makes it easy for her, even though, like other students, they do complain about the amount of work and that the work is “difficult”.
Dr Mnguni lectures students on one of the most difficult subjects, Research. Dr Mnguni said that teaching the students Research Methodology has been a learning curve for her and the students. The module is being offered for the first time in the department this year. “I try my best to provoke their thinking by using a lot of relevant scenarios which they need to apply their knowledge to. This relates to the tasks they need to do,” she said. Dr Mnguni added that before Lockdown they would spend a lot of time debating approaches to researching different topics which were presented as examples in class. “I still try to do this online. As a lecturer, I rarely give my students answers but ask them questions to influence their thinking, leading to the right answers,” she said. This makes them see things differently and come up with solutions, she said. She also provides a platform for them to consult with her in any form the students choose.
The Head of department, Dr Thobile Poswa, said he was very pleased with the news. “It is pleasing to know that Dr Mnguni took an extra-ordinary initiative to reach out to students. She advised me of the plan and the initial session she conducted at midnight to accommodate students. I was touched by her commitment and sacrifice that put students’ interests over everything else,” said Dr Poswa.