Empowered young graduates are ready to spur and transform this African nation’s creative economy.
ON a late autumn's day, the sun rose sleepily over the Kingdom of Swaziland. Belying the still and spotless sky, the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre in Manzini was a flurry of activity. >
3,000 Swazis gathered to witness 825 students receive their degrees at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology’s (LUCT) inaugural convocation. It was a day to remember.
The university opened its doors three years ago, offering 13 associate degree programmes under seven faculties.
Following in the footsteps of its sister campuses in Botswana and Lesotho, it is the most high-tech campus in the country focused on creativity and innovation.
King Mswati III, who was guest of honour at the ceremony, has dubbed it Swaziland’s university of transformation.
“Africa stands as one of the future frontiers for creativity and innovation in the world. Now is the time for Swaziland to pick up speed in its drive for innovation and economic competitiveness,” said LUCT senior vice president (International Academic Management) Prof Steven Harris on behalf of founder and president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.
To rousing applause, he described the class of 2014 as a solid base of young practitioners who would help Swaziland achieve its long-term growth aspirations with their creative mindset and digital skillsets.
On the eve of the historical event, StarEducate sat down with six notable individuals who shared their journeys to this moment.
A tale of six Swazis
Mcebo Morris Dlamini is a jazz pianist with a technological touch.
His keen interest in developing desktop, online and mobile applications led him to enrol in information technology.
“Further down the line I aspire to start my own business but first I want to work and see how other companies operate.”
He describes his time at university as enjoyable but demanding.
“After the first semester, my lecturers realised the potential I had. And so they pushed and squeezed until the best came out of me.
“They kept telling me they expected nothing less than my last mark. So there were many sleepless nights on my part.”
His hard work was not in vain; with a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.68, Mcebo was one of four graduating students to receive the Tan Sri Dato Sri Paduka Limkokwing Award for Excellence.
The high achiever said his father and mother would be coming from his hometown Hhohho (in the northwest of Swaziland) and South Africa respectively to attend the ceremony.
“I haven’t told them the news. I want to surprise them,” he says with a grin.
Another Excellence Award winner was Claudia Nkirote Zamberia, who brushes off her 3.75 CGPA with the classic air of a perfectionist, “I felt like I could have done a lot better.”
A self-taught artist who tends toward self-portraits and still life, Claudia initially wanted to pursue studies in the fine arts.
“But I realised it was hard to do. I didn’t want to leave my creative background behind though, so I thought why not look for something closely related and just as interesting that would still allow me to bring my drawings to life.”
So she took up creative multimedia, which she says has equipped her with relevant skills for today’s world.
“I now know how to use media to sell a product. I can advertise myself and put myself on the web,” she says, adding that she would like to continue studying animation.
Originally from Kenya, the 21-year old has been living in Swaziland with her family since she was nine.
“My family members are a bunch of serious academics. Social sciences, politics — that’s what they study. So it was exciting for them when I took up something creative. They were always throwing ideas at me. They encouraged me every single day and gave me the strength to keep going.”
She recalls her time on campus fondly.
“The environment is such that you’re free to be the person you want to be and aspire to be. Lecturers and students are welcoming and warm and always ready to help.”
Business information technology graduate Seneme Dlamini couldn’t agree more, describing the lecturers as her driving force.
“They helped me to believe in myself, always dispensing motivating words. They told me that I could do it, I just had to give it my all.”
And they were right, she says.
“I’m very good at using computers now, I even know how to fix them. Just give me a computer and I can do anything with it.”
The university also helped her grow, she adds.
“It brought out a beautiful side to me. I now know how to stand in front of people and talk. I’ve changed. I used to be on the shyer side but now I’m positive, confident and happy. Now I know that I can do anything.”
The 21-year old from the kingdom’s capital (Mbabane) wants to specialise in information systems.
“Solving problems, that’s what I love to do. I’m a solution provider. Even all my friends come to me for help with their problems.”
Seneme, along with eight other graduating students, received the Tan Sri Dato Sri Paduka Limkokwing Award for Leadership.
Like a true leader, Seneme is eager to broaden her horizons, saying she doesn’t want to limit herself to her native country.
When asked where she would love to go, her eyes widen: Malaysia.
“When I see pictures of Malaysia, it looks like such an amazing and beautiful country. It would be a dream come true to go there.”
Somewhere, the young woman’s fairy godmother was listening, for her wish was granted.
In the biggest and best surprise of the ceremony, LUCT vice president (Corporate Relations and Affairs) Datuk Fajura Juffa Mohd Mustafa Kamal announced that all 13 Excellence and Leadership award winners would receive a scholarship covering full tuition fees, accommodation and return flight tickets to pursue their bachelor degrees at the main LUCT campus here in Cyberjaya.
The lucky 13 will also get the opportunity to spend a month at the London campus as part of the Global Classroom initiative.
As a University Colours for Ambassadorship recipient, Sijabulile Thandeka Vilakati also had plenty of reason to celebrate, donning a new custom-made, ethnic-print dress and also a new hairdo especially for the ceremony.
“It was a lot of hard work,” she says of her experience at the university.
“They throw you into the deep end and you have to learn how to swim on your own right away. But it was mind opening. They taught us to think out of the box so much so that now, I don’t even believe there is a box anymore!”
Sijabulile studied event management, which she says she has always had a passion for.
“At parties, I’m always the one running around making sure everything is going smoothly. So it runs in my blood. I always tell people, I have three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and event blood cells.”
The 22-year old already has some professional experience under her belt; at last year’s Bushfire, Swaziland’s three-day international music and arts festival, she was an artist liaison manager for South African indie jazz band The Muffinz.
After some further study and more work experience, Sijabulile says she would like to eventually open her own event management company.
“I want to be the next event management guru. I want to be an icon.”
As valedictorian of her class, the young woman’s ambition is certainly reflected in her message to her fellow classmates.
“Let us be memorable students. Let us be exceptional in everything we do. Let’s each be a man or woman of change. It’s not rocket science. All you need is to be passionate, a hard worker and to believe in yourself.”
Echoing this sentiment, the saying what e’re thou art, act well thy part was the anchor of fellow valedictorian Sabelo W. Mthethwa’s message.
“Basically, whatever you do, go hard,” he explains in his own words.
After graduating from high school in 2002, the 30-year-old took a year off and then did voluntary service in east Africa for two years.
It was during his internship at an advertising agency under his photography teacher that he found his calling.
Sabelo worked for two years before starting his own agency in 2009 which today employs three fulltime staff and an intern.
One of its most recent campaigns has been for the United Nations Population Fund.
He decided to begin his formal education in advertising after a presentation by the late Chen Meng Kong, a pioneer member of the LUCT African team, inspired him. “Education is key. Even in advertising, you need a CV. For me, learning never stops and even graduating, I see it merely as the end of the first step.”
With former teachers as parents, Sabelo says he would one day like to share and impart knowledge himself but adds that he will always see himself first and foremost as a creative.
“Being a creative means doing what you want to do. Coming up with your own ideas and executing them. It means not always following procedure and having to shake your brain.”
It’s clear in talking to these pioneering graduates that they embody the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the university and its founder, who was recently named the Father of Innovation in Africa by the World Confederation of Businesses.
Armed with their brand new and well-stocked toolkit and an unquenchable thirst for life, they’re out to make their mark on the world.
University Colours for Command Performance recipient Lucky Sibonangaya Mathonsi is no different; he completed his studies in public relations but the 23-year old is also a writer and published author.
His collection of inspirational poetry, My Time, was released at the end of May, with another six manuscripts ready to be published. With a desire to inspire, Lucky says he wants to venture into motivational speaking next.
“I want college and high school students to know that anything is possible. Even if you come from a humble beginning, you can be anything that you want to be.”
Raised by a single dad, Lucky lost his mother when he was only six years old but says the experience taught him to be responsible from a young age.
“Every coin has two sides. There is always a positive side to a problem and it’s up to you to focus on the positive.”