Environmental Sciences Master’s graduate, Ms Ntombifuthi Nzimande, has been awarded a Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship through the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), enabling her to conduct her PhD studies at a Hungarian public university.
A day after graduating with her Master’s degree in September for her study on mapping the spatial distribution of the Yellowwood Tree (Podocarpus Henkelii) in the Weza-Ngele forests using a new generation sensor, Nzimande jetted off to Hungary where she will undertake her PhD studies at the University of Szeged. After completing the coursework component, her PhD research will involve social impact assessment policies in Hungary.
The scholarship programme, arranged between the Hungarian government and DHET, includes fee exemption, medical insurance, accommodation contribution, monthly stipend and allowance for travel expenses.
After a lengthy application process, Nzimande was selected as one of the 100 recipients from a pool of 400 South African applicants and 6 000 international applicants. She said she was honoured to be selected and encouraged other students to actively seek out scholarship opportunities.
‘As a young Black female from South Africa, I hope to gain exposure to research the different environmental management methods that work for Hungary and other European countries which will give me international relations experience and exposure to assist in improving our National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) to achieve optimal results that have both environmental and social benefits,’ she said.
Her interest in environmental management was sparked by her belief that social impact assessments should form a legal component of NEMA so that society’s concerns regarding the economic, social and cultural impacts of developments such as housing projects are reflected.
Nzimande, who completed her Bachelor of Social Sciences and Honours in Geography and Environmental Management at UKZN, says her studies grounded her passion for social issues and their impact on the environment. She enjoyed her time at UKZN, particularly being able to work as a postgraduate student to support herself after relying on her sisters during her undergraduate studies.
While at UKZN, she received a Talent Excellence and Equity Acceleration Scholarship and was involved in the Golden Key International Honour Society, the Campus HIV/AIDS Support Unit, Community Development Association as well as the Black Management Forum. She was also an academic mentor, demonstrator, supplemental instruction leader and residence assistant, and attended the Activate! leadership training for change drivers.
Nzimande plans to enter an academic career in science education, research and teaching where she will apply her enthusiasm and experience for environmental management.
She thanked staff at UKZN who played an important role in her development, including the cleaning and clinic staff, Risk Management Services and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, especially Ms Mbali Gumbi, Ms Cynthia Bhebhe, Ms Sibongile Khuzwayo and Ms Tamlyn Skye. She acknowledged the Campus Church for its spiritual support and thanked staff and students in Geography for their assistance and support.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Ntombifuthi Nzimande