At just 15 years old, Rofhiwa Mukhondo, a student in Gauteng, South Africa, has been awarded the prestigious Galactic Unite Africa Scholarship award, made possible by Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut Tim Nash and his family.

The prestigious award is one of four programmes facilitated by the Thandulwazi Maths and Science Academy. It is designed to support students with strong language proficiency and academic excellence with particular achievement in science and mathematics. It’s specifically aimed at students who fall within the group of “historically disadvantaged South Africans” and are successful despite the weak infrastructure in the schools in which they learn. Prior to accepting the scholarship, Rofhiwa was a weekly boarder in Grade Nine at Lee Rand High School, situated in Benoni on the East Rand of Gauteng, spending weekends at home every month, where she lives with her brother, his wife and their daughter.

I caught up with 15-year-old Rofhiwa to find out about more about her life, the changes to come and her hopes and dreams for the future.

It’s amazing news about the scholarship – well done! I bet everyone’s really proud of you – what do your friends and family think about it all?

My friends and family always have more faith in me than I have in myself. I felt the most pressure from my brother as he is always more serious about things like this and wants me to do well.

My friends really believe in me and all think I’m completely capable. Some of my friends just want to get finished at school, but I’m determined. If people have a dream and want to achieve it, it inspires me so that’s what I’m doing.

What is your current school like and what do you think will be different at the academy?
I think the amount of work is going to be doubled, and I will need to put in more time to study, but I am a determined young lady! I won’t struggle too much as long as I put my mind to it and set goals and reach them.
I also think it will be easier to study at the College and I will have more time to focus on studying, not cleaning and helping around the house etc.

sisterhoodRofhiwa was welcomed into the St Stithians “sisterhood” by the Head Girl (2014) and Deputy Head (2014)

I read that you plan to study medicine and specialise in neuroscience – where did this passion come from and what do you love so much about it?
I have always wanted to be a doctor but didn’t know what type of doctor. During school we were doing the nervous system and I really liked finding out how everything works. Like you can just blink and the brain does loads of different things. The brain is amazing!

Is that what made you apply for the scholarship?
Well because I want to be a neurosurgeon, all aspects of the scholarship suit me. The school is amazing; it is beautiful and academically top class, but quite expensive. My father applied for the scholarship for me when he saw it advertised.

What do you do for fun?
Reading, drawing, writing poetry, and creative writing – anything to do with creativity really. I don’t love sports!

So the big question: who is your main inspiration?
My brother. He also had a scholarship and I watched him study day and night… always studying. He started from the bottom and is working his way up, which is inspiring.

If you were president, what would your main focus be? Education. I would make big changes and focus on education. It is so important; it creates more jobs and benefits everyone. Your mind just expands when you have education.

Rofhiwa and fatherRofhiwa with her very proud father Mr Jan Mukhondo

Would you ever want to go into space? And if you got the chance to, who would you want to go with?
Richard Branson! When you read about him he’s such an open minded guy. His mind is so open, he has no boundaries and doesn’t limit himself. Nothing limits him, he just goes for it. I was amazed when I found out he was dyslexic. Everything he has made came from the low expectations of others and he was completely successful. He’s an inspiration.

Thank you for the opportunity and I will show you that you will not be disappointed.

It was really uplifting to speak to such an articulate, intelligent and ambitious young lady with so much determination to achieve her dreams.

Read more about the scholarship in partnership with the Thandulwazi Learner Scholarship Programme, and the work Galactic Unite are doing. 

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