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Six bright young minds, one in each faculty, were honoured with Dean’s Medals during Autumn Graduation 2024.

They are:

Rebekah Maeder – Faculty of Informatics and Design: In 2021, Rebekah enrolled for a Diploma in Architectural Technology. She passed all her subjects with distinctions, with a total average of 81% which qualified her to graduate Summa Cum Laude. Rebekah successfully participated in competitions such as CIFA Homeless and PG Bison 2023 Architectural.

Thomas Pegg – Faculty of Applied Sciences: Thomas registered for the Diploma in Horticulture in 2021, and completed it in 2023, having scored distinctions in all 27 subjects required for the qualification, and an overall average of 88,2%. He is currently completing his Advanced Diploma in Horticulture and would like to pursue postgraduate studies in the near future.

Sushmita Nowases – Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment: In 2017, Sushmita started the National Diploma: Maritime Studies at the Granger Bay Campus. After completing her first year, she went to sea and returned to complete the remainder of her qualification in 2022, before the phase-out of the National Diploma. She obtained an average of 88.9%, obtaining 28 distinctions out of 29 subjects.

Shanai Vos – Faculty of Education (Bachelor of Education: Foundation Phase): Shania Vos obtained 35 distinctions out of the 35 subjects with a final aggregate of 89.22 % over the four years of study, passing summa cum laude.

“Throughout my university journey, I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to my studies. I had the privilege of being awarded the Dean’s Merit Certificate every year. Today, as I reflect on my achievements, I am filled with pride, knowing that I poured all my energy and commitment into my endeavours.

Alida Gouws – Faculty of Business and Management Sciences: In 2005, Alida started her tertiary education journey at North West University, doing a B Com: Economics & Law (2005–2007), B Com: International Trade (2008), BCom Honours: International Trade (2009), and University of South Africa (UNISA) Diploma: Business Management (2011). She enrolled at CPUT in 2021. During her time at CPUT, she exhibited exemplary academic ability, earning a remarkable total of 12 distinctions. Alida’s academic achievements highlight her exceptional intellect, diligence, and perseverance, setting her on a path towards continued success and fulfilment in her future endeavours.

Ameeroh Osman - Facutly of Health and Wellness Sciences: In 2021, Ameeroh registered for the three-year Diploma in Somatology. She obtained 24 distinctions out of 28 subjects. Ameeroh is currently registered for the one-year Advanced Diploma in Somatology, and aspires to work in Advanced Aesthetic Therapies.

A visually impaired Advanced Diploma: Quality graduate, Lesley Olivier, and his wife, Hendrika, a Call Centre Agent in CPUT’s Marketing and Communication Department, who is also visually impaired are not going to “let our disability stand in the way of us living a fulfilled life”.

“We want to take part in everything life has to offer,” says Lesley, who graduated last night. The elated father of two boys says it is possible to achieve your dreams only when you put your mind to it, adding that being visually impaired wouldn’t deter him and his family from fulfilling their dreams but pushes them to strive to reach their life goals.

“We want to be good parents for our children and give them the best possible opportunities in life, including the best possible education we can afford.”

His “immensely proud wife portrayed him as a very quiet and humble person. “He is always up for a challenge and is very self-driven. His academic success can be ascribed to his dedication and curious mind - he always wants to acquire new knowledge.

“It's difficult to put it [excitement] into words, but when I heard his name being called out, I was super excited and immensely proud of what my husband has achieved.”

She has been very supportive through-out his husband’s studies. “She understood if I had to put in hours to catch up with studies or doing research for assignments. She relieved me from time to time, so I could focus on my studies. She always encouraged me, especially through those times when I really stressed when I had difficulty understanding a concept or battled to find research material for an assignment.”

When he registered part-time in 2022, he was surprised to learn that CPUT has a dedicated Disability Unit that sees to the study needs of students with disabilities, and “this made me feel more at ease”. Classes were online, which meant that he would have had much less of personal interaction with lecturers than with physical classes, which would have been a disadvantage, especially for “a visually impaired student”. However, he decided to embrace the new way of attending classes and met “two brilliant lectures for my first two subjects”. “I can still recall Dr [Bronwyn]Swartz’s passion for teaching statistics and how she always started her classes by determining the wellbeing of her students out of pure sincerity.” He later met Dr [Desiree] Jaftha, “a real people’s person who liked to chat to students about everything imaginable, but who were also very efficient and knowledgeable on conveying various ISO standards applications and what it meant to students in their particular industries”.

“As soon as Dr Jaftha and Dr Swartz became aware of my presence in their respective classes, they had always tried to take special care to ensure that I’m able to follow.”

Lesley, who has been working as a call centre agent for an investment, savings, insurance, and banking group for 11 years admits that statistics with Dr Swartz was particularly challenging, but with additional help from her “I managed to pull through in the end”. “Dr Jaftha remained in contact with me even outside of class times to provide repeated feedback to me until I would grasp difficult concepts.”

It was also helpful that all lectures were recorded, so Lesley could listen to them over and over to assist him to better comprehend a concept. In his second year he met Dr Lucrecia Valentine, a lecturer in the Auditing of ISO Standards. “She was amazing, always full of energy and ready for a chat, but also extremely knowledgeable in the field of auditing with lots of experience that she shared with us students during her lecturers. She always made me feel very at ease in her class and I always felt free to contribute, whether it was through sharing an experience or answering a question she had asked. Dr Valentine’s lectures were always easy to follow, even for me who had a visual impairment.”

He continued: “None of my concerns I initially had when applied to study at CPUT materialised. None [lecturers] of them previously had a blind student in their class, and I suppose that they may not always have known how to accommodate me as one of their students, but in the end they have done a brilliant job in the way they have assisted me throughout my two years of study, having enabled me to complete my studies and be eligible to graduate the Advance Diploma in Quality, for which I’m very grateful.”

Meanwhile Jaftha says: “After investigating, I confirm that he is the first blind student to graduate from our faculty. As far as I know.” She adds that Lesley certainly conquered his circumstances. “It was interesting to see how he managed to participate in good quality group work and generally connecting virtually with his peers. In many instances they were unaware of his impairment. Lesley has shown an admirable level of tenacity, integrity and determination that truly inspired me. Keep on holding dear that which matters the most. I am honoured and proud to share in your moment of glory! A tremendous congratulations to you!”

Valentine described Lesley as a gentle, soft-spoken, and very gifted individual. “Lesley, unknowingly, inspired me as an able-bodied person. I was not aware he was visually impaired. I was drawn to the gentleness with which he spoke and his valuable experience when we engaged. It was evident that the qualification meant a lot to Lesley, and his learning attitude attributed his success…Lesley, you did it despite the obvious challenges.”

Maleecka Harris, Lecturer, Industrial & Systems Engineering, described Lesley as very respectful and humble. “His active engagement during class attributed to his success.”

Banyana Banyana Coach Desiree Ellis dedicated her Honorary Doctorate to all those who believe in the power of sport to propel them from their circumstances.

Ellis received the honour during CPUT’s Autumn Graduation Series which will see 7000 students getting capped this week.

The audience cheered as her accolades were read out including four successive Cosafa Cup titles between 2017 and 2020, and four Confederation of African Football CAF Women's Coach of the Year awards, amongst a host of other awards like coaching the women’s soccer national team to two Fifa World Cup Qualifiers.

Ellis says the accolades may be directed at her but are the culmination of teamwork.

“If the team does well then individuals stand out and I am fortunate that I am sometimes one of those individuals,” she said.

Ellis reflected on the thousands of women graduating at CPUT, many of whom will need to break barriers in male dominated spheres.

“At the end of the day if you are qualified then that space you want is not set aside for a male or female. Don’t be afraid of failing because that strengthens you and you get another opportunity to succeed later. To the females out there, just go for it, because other women who come from your neighbourhood is watching and want to emulate you.”

Ellis was supported by her mother and family along with good friend Ilhaam Groenewald who is herself a powerhouse female leader in sport as the Chief Director of Sport at Stellenbosch University.

CPUT Chair of Council Dr Laurine Platzky has known Ellis for many years and shared the stage with her as she received the honour.

“We are enormously proud of Banyana Banyana and their role on the African continent. Not only is Desiree’s message of hard work and patient persistence so important to all our young girls, but as a role model she lives a principled life untainted by the glamour of the spotlight. May this honorary degree be a recognition of her determined contribution to our country and an inspiration to all sportswomen.”

Nominations for Honorary Doctorate candidates are sourced from within the CPUT community, and the stringent process passes through a number of selection committees before being approved at Council, the highest decision making body at CPUT.

Zandile Natasha Genuka was just 21 when her life plans came to a devastating halt in 2021 when she suffered a light stroke - just weeks after giving birth.

She spent three months in Intensive Care, unable to walk or talk and battling to remember basic information.

Zandile, who was studying towards an Advanced Diploma in Marketing, had to make the difficult choice to take a gap year from her studies in 2022.

The journey to recovery was a long and challenging one but she never gave up hope. Her determination paid off – today she is celebrating her graduation.

“I'm so excited because when I look back to where I'm coming from, I never knew that I would accomplish what I've been praying for. It took a lot of prayer for me not to give up on my dream,” said the new graduate who originally hails from Qonce (King Williams Town).

“There is no elevator to success, we all have to take the stairs. You can’t give up because of the obstacles you face in life.”

Looking back on her journey, Zandile said that after her discharge “she had to start over” and her days were filled with occupational therapy and speech therapy sessions as well as physiotherapy “to train myself to walk”.

She said she managed to pass the two modules she was doing in 2021 with the support of her lecturers, Zandile Mxaku and Nayeema Bray.

In 2022 she decided to take a gap year to focus on her health and returned to her studies in 2023 to complete her remaining modules.

“I managed to pass the modules and I appreciate the support given by Ms (Mandy) Jones my head of department at the time and also Dr Rodney Duffett who never got tired of explaining the same thing over again.”

She is now enrolled for her postgraduate studies in Business Administration.

Being awarded the coveted Vice-Chancellor’s (VC) medal brings a sense of pride and accomplishment, and recognition for hard work and dedication.

Joshua Overmeyer, who graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Nature Conservation during the CPUT Autumn Graduation last night, says being the VC medal recipient brings “me a feeling of honour and responsibility, not only to continue to strive for excellence, but to promote and uphold the values associated with the VC medal”.

Joshua completed the Diploma in 2021, scoring distinctions in all 25 subjects offered, and achieving the qualification Summa Cum Laude. He then enrolled for the Advanced Diploma in Nature Conservation and again scored distinctions in all nine subjects offered – graduating Summa Cum Laude again. His average mark across all years of study is 85.3%.

The Capetonian is currently registered for the Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation Science, with a research project supervised by Prof Frans Radloff. Radloff described Joshua as a humble and quiet person who gets the work done without boasting about it in any way. “He cares deeply about others and the environment and is very passionate about conservation. He is obviously gifted, but it is not just a great mind that got him where he is. He also outworks everyone else, and it is the combination of his intellect and work ethic that make him excel.”

The 30-year-old student has a close-knit family who has been incredibly supportive throughout his academic journey. Initially, Joshua studied towards an LLB degree after he finished his Matric, but he shifted his career path to Nature Conservation after rediscovering his passion. Through networking with the experts in the field, Joshua discovered the nature conservation course offered at CPUT. Recognising the University’s reputation for quality education and its practical approach to conservation studies, he decided to pursue his academic journey here.

“At CPUT, I immersed myself in a rich learning environment that combined theoretical knowledge with hands-on experiences. My time at CPUT not only equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge but also instilled in me a sense of purpose and responsibility toward environmental stewardship.”

It was a transformative period that solidified his commitment to making a meaningful difference in conservation efforts. “My journey leading up to this achievement has been one of growth, perseverance, and self-discovery. It involved exploring different paths, facing challenges, and embracing opportunities to learn and develop. Along the way, I received support from mentors, educators, and family, whose guidance and encouragement fuelled my determination. This journey has not only shaped my skills and knowledge but has also deepened my passion and commitment to making a meaningful impact in my chosen field.”

The support from his lecturers and faculty members has always been “invaluable”. Their guidance, encouragement, and expertise have significantly contributed to his academic growth and success. Joshua attributes a significant part of his achievements to the unwavering support from his family. Their encouragement, belief in his abilities, and sacrifices have been the “bedrock of my journey, providing me with the support needed to pursue my goals”.

Equally important, has been his passion and curiosity for his chosen career path. “This intrinsic motivation has been a driving force, keeping me engaged, enthusiastic, and constantly seeking to deepen my knowledge and skills. It's this passion that has fuelled long hours of hard work, pushing me to consistently strive for excellence.

“I have also been fortunate to have mentors and teachers who have guided and inspired me along the way. Their mentorship, wisdom, and guidance have helped shape my perspectives, refine my goals, and navigate challenges effectively.”

Joshua completed his Work Integrated Working year at Karoo Ridge Conservancy.

The Acting Head of the Department of Public Administration and Governance, Althea Whitaker, is delighted that her department has produced its first graduates for the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration. A total of 51 graduates who successfully completed the qualification, were capped during the eighth session of the Autumn Graduation series 2024 at the Bellville campus, which was held yesterday.

Whitaker says in a landmark move towards enhancing the efficiency, integrity, and accountability of the public sector, the national framework for the professionalisation of the public service was approved by Cabinet in October 2022. “This transformative framework underscores the commitment to equipping public servants with the right qualifications, technical skills, and a service delivery ethos.”

She adds that a pivotal aspect of this framework is the new minimum qualification standard for entry into the Senior Management Service (SMS) levels 13 to 16, set at an NQF level 8. “This represents a significant advancement from the previous minimum standard of entry at NQF level 7, to be fully implemented by 2025.”

The Department of Public Administration and Governance took the lead by launching its first cohort in the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration NQF level 8 qualification in 2023. This pioneering initiative saw 51 students graduate, meeting the new entry level requirement for senior management positions with the right qualification and technical skills.

“These aspiring leaders were exposed to a comprehensive curriculum covering Corporate Governance, Public Policy, Financial Management and Accountability, Development Management, Strategic Disaster Management, and Research Methodology. It is worth noting that two out of the seven Summa Cum Laude students in the university hailed from the Department of Public Administration and Governance.

“Congratulations to Elizabeth Julies and Tamsyn Whitaker for this outstanding achievement!”

Elizabeth says: “Graduating Summa Cum Laude as part of the first cohort for Public Administration makes it so much more special. It's definitely another feather in my cap as I'm currently busy with Master's. My message would be: "Hard and difficult is better than nice and easy. Three things that really work are discipline, reading, and being glued to your seat.”

For Tamsyn Whitaker, being part of the first cohort to graduate in the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration “fills me with immense pride and a sense of accomplishment. It's an honour to be a trailblazer in this programme and to contribute to its legacy”.

To prospective students, I would say embrace the opportunity to be part of something new and groundbreaking. The Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration offers a unique chance to delve into the intricacies of governance and make a meaningful impact in the public sector. Seize this chance to expand your knowledge, skills, and network, and pave the way for future generations of public administrators.

In addition, Nicole Khadalie and Tsepo Sethole distinguished themselves by completing their qualifications with Cum Laude, showcasing their dedication to academic excellence.

The Department is also celebrating the graduation of students from various other qualifications:

  • Diploma (Foundation programme): 26 graduates
  • Diploma (Mainstream): 67 graduates
  • Advanced Diploma: 88 graduates

“As we reflect on the achievements of the past year, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates of 2023. Your dedication, hard work, and commitment to excellence have set a benchmark for others to aspire to,” Whitaker enthused.

She continued: “As you embark on your professional journey, may you continue to uphold the values of efficiency, integrity, and accountability in serving our nation. You are the future leaders of our public service, and we are confident that you will make a significant impact in shaping a brighter future for all South Africans.

“Well done to the class of 2023! Your success is a testament to the power of education, determination, and the unwavering spirit of public service.”

Football legend, Desiree Ellis, the “humble and blessed” head coach of Banyana Banyana, reacted with enormous gratitude upon learning that CPUT has decided to award her an Honorary Doctorate in Sports Management.

“She [Ellis] epitomises women in sport participation, leadership, and business and she is a positive role model for all future CPUT graduates and especially Sport Management graduates,” says Prof Simeon Davies, Head of the Sports Management Department.

The ceremony on 25 April, will form part of CPUT’s Autumn Graduation series at which over 7000 students will graduate between 22 and 26 April 2024. The Western Cape native’s most recent notable achievements include winning the 2021 Women’s African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco, which resulted in South Africa’s representation in the 2023 FIFA World Cup. This is only the second time Banyana Banyana qualified for a world cup and the first time the team qualified for the knock-out phase among the top 16 teams in the world. “These achievements speak volumes of Desiree’s leadership of the national team on a global scale,” Davies enthuses.

Reacting to the news, Ellis “was speechless for a moment and in complete awe”, and she is looking forward to the ceremony. “I am really excited and the fact that it’s in my home city makes it more special as my family can attend this special occasion and celebrate with me.”

Davies states that Ellis’ contribution to women’s sport and notably football has impacted positively on the aspirations of thousands of young women who now have a role model who has shown how a woman from humble beginnings can achieve success and recognition as a leader in the competitive world of professional sport. “Desiree’s success story means that many young females, could well emulate her accomplishments in their own careers, whether it be business, technology or public service.”

Ellis started playing competitive football from the age of 15, making the national team in 1993 as a vice-captain, and going on to captain the national team from 1994 to 2002.

Some of her immeasurable feats, accolades and acknowledgements include:

  • Four successive Cosafa Cup titles unbeaten (2017; 2018; 2019; 2020)
  • Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women’s Coach of the Year in 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023.
  • Order of Ikhamanga in Gold 2023
  • Two successive world cup appearances in 2019 & 2023 and the first South African senior national team to reach last 16.
  • Forbes Women Africa Sports Award 2024

Reflecting on Ellis glittering career, Davies, says: “Through hard work, persistence and her exceptional high standards Desiree Ellis has become a hero to many South Africans, and, because of her challenged upbringing, she especially relates to and inspires so many women in our disadvantaged communities.”

He adds that CPUT values excellence and the success of “our women’s national football team, Banyana Banyana under the leadership of the coach, Desiree Ellis, displays how her passion for excellence provided the foundation for success”. “We believe that her story from modest beginnings in Cape Town and her outstanding leadership on the global stage will inspire CPUT graduates to shape a better world for humanity.”

Ellis is “truly honoured, humbled and blessed, God is truly amazing”, by the latest individual recognition. “A big thank [you] to CPUT for honouring me. Please continue to create opportunities for other women, celebrate them and their achievements. continue to support and raise the profile of women.”

Ellis attributes her achievements to the support of her team and that is what keeps her going. “We always say it’s all about the team and if the team does well the individual will stand out. I work with a fantastic group of players, technical staff, and support staff and together we make it happen. The players are key role players, and they make us look good. A big thank you to SAFA and our sponsor, Sasol for their unwavering support.

She adds that her love and passion for the game and wanting to see women in football succeed and to raise the profile of women in sport also contributes to her successes.