On International Youth Day the world focuses on issues impacting on young people. Celebrating youth potential in the technology sphere allows us to share Thulisile Thukwana’s inspiring story. She is an alumnus of the JumpCO Software Labs.
Flying a young girl’s dreams
Thulisile Thukwana (32) from Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg was raised by her grandmother for most of her life. “My mother passed away when I was 10 and my sister was 5. We did not have much, but my grandmother ensured that all our basic needs were covered,” she said.
Thulisile was always smart at school and her grades were unaffected by the home situation. “Until I could go to the library by myself, I borrowed books and read anything I could find! I was fascinated by all the new things I learned every day.” Dreams of becoming a pilot drove her to study hard for good grades. “My family was very supportive especially my grandmother who means the world to me,” she recalls.
She matriculated in 2007 from Jabulile Secondary School in Orange Farm where her teachers liked and motivated her. “My Mathematics teachers, Mr Chikovhi and Mr Tshabalala, inspired and guided me. When the university reps visited our school in Grade 11, we learned about various qualifications and careers. System development stood out because I loved working with computers, even though I did not yet own one. I could access a school computer occasionally,” says Thulisile.
Onward to university
Thulisile’s good matric results opened the door to University. “Then came the stress tertiary studies expenses. One evening my caregiver from Africa Tikkun arrived, telling me to be ready bright and early the next day. We were off to different companies to find funding!”
The best thing on offer at Tomorrow Trust was a cooking course. Thulisile had already been accepted to Study a BSc Information Technology at North-West University. “For the other kids cooking was better than staying home, but I respectfully declined, thanking them. I explained that I needed help with the registration fee and hoped NSFAS would approve my application.”
With Tomorrow Trust’s help, Thulisile could stay in res with a monthly stipend. She continues, “NSFAS came through for me, paying my tuition fee, books and providing food vouchers. Things were looking up and my family was proud of me, the first person to attend university. People in the community respected me too.”
First year went well with new friends and good prospects. “Tomorrow Trust secured a bursary via an IT company called SunGard for second year. Things improved further during school holidays with vacation work and good money, I could help my family’s finances.”
Thulisile continues her candid story: “Fast forward to my third year… Sungard flew me to Cape Town, promising to hire me. I was over the moon and the partying began! Then the course got difficult. I failed some modules and couldn’t graduate. To make things worse I was irresponsible and fell pregnant, which sadly ended in an early miscarriage. It seemed my life had stopped and I descended into depression. Both companies never gave up on me, continuing to motivate me and offering me another chance to complete my course. I passed only one of the four modules and, feeling ashamed, dropped out and went home, having lost my bursary.
Back on track
In 2014 while job hunting, a friend pointed her to the JumpCO Software Labs. Thulisile applied and got in. “I enjoyed the JumpCO learnership, having covered much of the course at university. I did not struggle much and Mr Valdy and Mr Khokhoni smoothed the process. By the end of the year I had four programming certifications on my CV. The following year I did my internship and added the IBM Integration Certification to my toolbelt.
“That year JumpCO offered me another fabulous opportunity as a facilitator and assessor on the learnership programme – again in Cape Town! I think the Mother City really likes me. Maybe one day I might just end up actually staying there. Honestly, it was great! I loved the work and managed to register with UNISA, hoping to finish my degree. However, Cape Town was just too far away. Homesick, I returned to my Grandmother and to work in Johannesburg again.”
In 2017, back in JumpCO’s Johannesburg office, Thulisile continued to facilitate and assess participants in the learnership and internship programmes. “Proud moments included a promotion, and being offered shares in the company. The other was giving birth to a healthy beautiful boy. Njabulo means joy, and he brought that and so much more to my life.
“Another joyful moment was graduation day at North West University in 2018, which prepared me for my current position in client support. My responsibilities include JumpStart Foundation colleagues who use the JumpTrak app in their work as maths tutors in Foundation Phase classrooms.”
In ten years’ time?
By 2031 Thulisile aims to be doing System Analysis and Design, which is her driving ambition. She credits Steve Mahony for teaching her everything she knows. “System Analysis and Design requires various skills, including dealing with clients, collecting data, understanding the requirements, and ensuring that system design and development meets the client’s needs. Because technology is forever changing, I take System Analysis and Design courses in my spare time to stay updated. I enjoy reading novels too and plan to write a book about my life one day!”
Advice for interns on International Youth Day
Thulisile offers tutors and interns the advice she wishes she had received: “Stay hopeful and positive! Hold on to your dreams, no matter what. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Encourage yourself and do what you can. Protect and maintain your mental health, which is everything.”
One last tip for readers in their 20s… “Don’t waste your youth. Build your future as soon as you can. Things don’t always go the way you planned but while you’re alive, there’s a chance to pursue your dreams. They may not all come true at the same time, so take it one dream at a time.”
Partner with us
JumpStart and JumpCO Software Labs welcome partners who will support South African youth training for meaningful careers. We can help you meet your Skills Development requirements. Please mail Betty Oliphant for further information.