Show me the money! Siphiwo Teddy Ngcobo (centre), with parents, Mhlonishwa (left) and Nompumelelo Ngcobo (right)

Siphiwo Teddy Ngcobo, Diploma in Building graduate, has been awarded the 2022 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for being the best student in the Faculty of Engineering at the second Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) graduation ceremony, held on 10 August 2022.

Ngcobo, who is from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, credit her success to her ability to manage her time successfully and make time for other relaxing activities.

“Whenever I got academically strained or felt like I have studied enough for the day I would find other activities, such as playing my guitar, to relieve me from stress,” she said. “Not being afraid to ask for help and getting information to help me understand better also helped a lot.”

Although Ngcobo is today celebrated as the top student in her faculty, her journey to MUT was not in a straight line. Her father, Mhlonishwa Ngcobo, had another career in mind for his daughter.

“My father wanted me to study medicine, so I went to the University of KwaZulu-Natal to try and get enrolment. Unfortunately, they said my points were not enough to get me in. I then went to Durban University of Technology (DUT) where I was enrolled for a National Diploma in Civil Engineering,” said Ngcobo.

It was during her stint at DUT that she discovered her true calling in life. Ngcobo was destined for building.

“I got to learn that there are different careers in construction besides Civil Engineering. Civil Engineering was not my home. When I got to MUT, this (Diploma in Building) was the course which was offered to me. I fell in love with the course and understood my mission clearly,” said Ngcobo.

Ironically, it was the time she spent watching her father work on his projects that channelled Ngcobo towards a career in building despite her father wanting her to study medicine instead.

“Growing up my father has always been someone who does things for himself, especially with building activities as he was once a labourer at construction sites,” said Ngcobo.  “Assisting him made me learn a lot, such as the tools required for certain jobs and that is where I developed a love for Construction.”

While at MUT, Ngcobo took every opportunity she got to not only better herself but also help other students who needed assistance with their studies. Tutoring other students made all the difference.

Ngcobo explained: “The department of Construction Management and Quantity Surveying allowed me to tutor students for two years. That enabled me to work even harder to qualify for the position and allowed me to get used to being dedicated to what I do to allow myself to get opportunities.”

But her success formula extended beyond helping others to help herself perform better. Ngcobo had her strategy which she followed religiously. She believes that others could also learn from it. Her advice to fellow students is a combination of working smart and having the right motivation.

“Be one step ahead of the lecturer by going through the chapter which your lecturer will commence with. Repetition and practice are key as they help you to instil the knowledge. Information is not easily forgotten when you share it, so do not be afraid to share what you have understood. It will help you to automatically not forget. Do not compete with anyone but yourself and allow yourself to enjoy life,” advised Ngcobo.

Like many students, Ngcobo had many people looking up to her for exemplary behaviour and performance. Their relationship with her allowed her to share both hardships and moments of joy.

“My family, especially my mother (Nompumelelo Ngcobo), made me feel comfortable enough to talk about my wins and the hardships I was facing during my academic year,” said Ngcobo. “They would motivate me not to give up.”

Ngcobo’s father said he was very grateful for his daughter’s performance. He said his daughter made him proud.