Mr Matthew Liam De Klerk receives his award from UKZN Chief Financial Officer, Ms Nontuthuko Mbhele.

Matthew Liam De Klerk is undertaking his second-year studies in Electrical Engineering and has managed to receive the Dean’s Commendation for every semester.

Despite being very young in his academic career, the 20-year-old has already shown signs of a bright future.

De Klerk attended Glenwood High School where he finished matric in 2016 with a Dux award. He was encouraged to visit the Science and Engineering Disciplines at UKZN by his high school’s stellar Maths and Science department. ‘This was my first introduction to the university and ultimately, one of the reasons I decided to study at UKZN,’ he said.

Through university recruitment initiatives, he was able to engage with UKZN engineers and tour university facilities. ‘I have always been told that the UKZN Engineering Department is one of the best in the country. After talking with engineers from the university, I had full confidence in their programmes,’ he said. Taking into account his talks with engineers and the institution’s academic reputation, De Klerk decided to pursue an Engineering qualification at UKZN.

Once he joined the institution in 2017, he managed to adjust to University life seamlessly. He found that the lecturers and students provided a competitive environment which required him to give more. ‘I was motivated to perform well because I saw others working hard and was pushed to do the same,’ he said.

De Klerk worked so hard in his first year that he has been awarded with the Malegapuru W Makgoba Scholarship Award. Named after former UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba, this scholarship is awarded to the top-five undergraduates proceeding from first-year to second-year.

De Klerk is both honoured and grateful for the award. ‘It gives me great pleasure to know that my efforts last year were worthy of such a prestigious scholarship from UKZN. With the Engineering Department at UKZN being amongst the top in the country, achieving the scholarship, in such a discipline, is even more rewarding,’ he said.

He also admits that the scholarship frees him from financial challenges. ‘This scholarship means that I do not have to worry about raising funds for my studies and therefore can focus on exploring career opportunities in Electrical Engineering,’ he said.

De Klerk admits that he could not have achieved all that he has without the support if his family and friends. His parents are not surprised by his academic success because he has always been a consistent worker. ‘Matthew has shown the same dedication at University as he did at school. His goal at university has been to do the best he can and he has therefore has put his studies first,’ his parents said.

De Klerk also knows that this scholarship opportunity comes with a responsibility. ‘I know that I have to use this scholarship to become an engineer that makes many positive contributions to society. I also aim to be good ambassador for UKZN,’ he said. He plans on pursuing a Master’s degree after he completes his undergraduate qualification.

Words: Sashlin Girraj

Photographer: Rajesh Jantilal