Onke Mbuli and Mnotho Makhoba’s first interaction with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation occured around the age of 13 when they applied for the Allan Gray Scholarship opportunity. Five years later they are still in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s fold but now as Candidate Allan Gray Fellows.
Thanks to the Scholarship both Onke and Mnotho had access to quality high school education. In addition it exposed them to a myriad of entrepreneurs and leaders and sparked in them an interest in entrepreneurship and effecting positive change within their society. Their individual stories reminds one that you are never too young to begin effecting change, especially in your own life.
Onke’s story begins in Farrarmere, Benoni, where she and her two older sisters were raised by a single mom who “was Mom and Dad all in one and would stop at nothing to ensure that her [children] had a good upbringing and childhood
Obtaining a Scholarship from the Foundation allowed Onke to attend high school in Stellenbosch at Rhenish Girls’ High. Here she developed a passion for accounting and helping those who could not help themselves. This passion for leadership saw her being elected as head girl in her final year at Rhenish.
She describes the experience of applying for the Fellowship opportunity as a daunting one. “I felt like I was competing with thousands of the world’s brightest … leaders, which was insanely intimidating.” It was worth it though, because now she is able to join likeminded people in effecting change and she is able to study at her dream university. Being a student in BCom Financial Accounting at the University of Cape Town, “one of the best universities in Africa,” allows Onke to dream of a future where, as a chartered accountant and together with her peers, she can one day “make a big change [in education] … because education is the foundation to everything.”
Much like Onke, Mnotho was also raised on the income of just one parent. Though his parents were married, his father had difficulty securing permanent employment and their family of six had to make do with their mom’s salary. As a result, Mnotho could never access the opportunities he wished for and felt he deserved. Living in Vulindlela Township and attending Empangeni Preparatory School meant getting up at the crack of dawn to be ready in time for the school bus. Boarding at the school would eliminate these early mornings, but it was not an option for him.
He soon realised that his dream of changing his circumstances, like attending a private school, would only happen if he became proactive. He started taking his school work seriously and in his later primary school years he regularly achieved one of the top three places for academics.
Mnotho’s life changed dramatically when his English teacher, Ms Denise Hills, told him about the Allan Gray Scholarship opportunity. He applied and was granted a Scholarship to attend Bishops Diocesan College in Cape Town. This opportunity not only helped him escape an environment where the youth embraced alcoholism, drug abuse and violence; it also opened his eyes to even more opportunities. Before long Mnotho became deputy head boy at Bishops and was elected as the school’s representative to the Global Young Leaders’ Conference, which was held in New York City and Washington DC in 2013.
On achieving the Scholarship, Mnotho says, “I have many proud moments but [one is that] I received a scholarship which nurtured my potential at a very young age and offered me with the necessary mentorship to help me use my potential effectively.” He cites his achievement in receiving an Allan Gray Fellowship and gaining access to the University of Cape Town as a BBusSci student as two more of which he is proud. “The few months I have been part of the Fellowship have resulted in a shift in my mindset because of [the] introspective activities.” Mnotho reckons “the Fellowship is one of the few, if not only, university scholarships which go beyond academics and actually challenge you as an individual to understand and challenge the difficulties facing your society.”
Considering Mnotho and Onke’s achievements to date, it is only natural to be filled with excitement about their individual futures and their contributions to society at large.