UWC bursary winners reveal coping skills

Lerato Molefe says consulting her lecturers and having group chats with her fellow students benefited her studies.

Two UWC students from Bellville, Lerato Molefe, 24, and Uyanda Mhlanga, 22, are among a hard-working batch of students who earned bursaries to continue their postgraduate studies in the field of computer science.

According to Lerato, who is originally from Pretoria, the paranoia surrounding the pandemic tested her mentally and emotionally during the final year of her computer-science degree.

“Last year was the hardest I ever worked, and I struggled to adjust to working from home during Covid, but I gave it my all. It was tough being stuck at home and trying to balance family time with studying,” she recalled.

“I struggled to stay focused and sometimes I’d get disturbed a lot or get caught up in home duties such as chores, cooking or having to run errands for people.”

However, a shift in mindset helped her gain back a disciplined approach to her studies, as she pretended she was physically back at school awaiting her next class at home.

“It really helped having a schedule to plan out my day. The previous night I would write out my tasks and try to complete them the following day. As we had no live classes and everything was virtual, I would follow my timetable as if I was at school,” she said.

“When I returned to UWC in September last year, I had to readjust to the ’campus life’. I realised again that no-one was going to check up on me or cook for me so it became clear that discipline was key at this stage.”

Lerato is currently completing her honours in computer science and will decide at the end of the year if she’ll continue studying.

For Uyanda, from the Eastern Cape, seeing an email last year stating that she was on a bursary list, was a pleasant surprise as she did not apply when she was approached.

“I was extremely happy and it felt like an affirmation that I was doing something right. Later it became very challenging when everything changed and we had to work from home, as I was new to online learning at the time,” she explained.

“Another challenge I had was having money for data, internet connections and staying in a good mental state. When you are at school you are surrounded by people and you feel as if you understand each other, but when you are alone you feel isolated with your problems.”

She also found that creating a routine stipulating her daily goals kept her focused during this time, but the key to her success was finding the balance between work and family.

“I would also communicate my schedule with my family, but I learnt that it’s important to be patient with yourself. It can get overwhelming, so you have to take care of yourself but stay accountable for the tasks you set out to achieve.”

Uyanda Mhlanga hopes to gain experience in computer networking after she graduates.