University of Pretoria funds studies of 14-year-old budding actuary

Posted on March 08, 2022

A 14-year-old actuarial science student has begun her academic journey at the University of Pretoria (UP) with the financial support of the institution.

After passing matric with seven distinctions, Mongiwa Ntuli, who hails from Johannesburg, took to social media to express her frustration over the fact that she could not be considered for a bursary because of her age.

“Being turned down by bursaries frustrated me because I believe that I did my part by getting good results and all I needed was financial assistance,” she says. “But then I had a conversation with the Vice-Chancellor of UP, who ensured that I got funding. I will forever be grateful for that.” 

UP will cover Ntuli’s tuition fees, study material and other expenses. In congratulating the budding actuary, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said one of the University’s strategic goals is access and success, especially for learners who have done well. “Mongiwa fits everything that the University wants to promote,” he says. “UP is a place of excellence and achievement; we aim to attract learners with distinctions from across the world.”

In 2017 Hjalmar Rall, who was also 14, started his academic journey with the University. The young man, who registered for a BSc in physics, completed his initial degree cum laude, and graduated cum laude with a BSc (Hons) Physics in the 2021 autumn graduation season.

From left: Guardian Siphosenkosi Ntuli, UP student Mongiwa Ntuli, UP Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe and guardian Lifa Nkala.

“We are grateful that Mongiwa got funding,” says Lifa Nkala, Ntuli’s uncle. “These are tough times, but when someone opens their pockets this wide and is willing to assist a stranger, it means a lot to us. Thank you, Prof Kupe, for coming through for us.”

Ntuli started school at an early age, having been enrolled for Grade 1 at the age of four. “When I was in Grade three, my teacher indicated that I would do better in Grade 5,” Ntuli recalls. “After attending a few classes, he recommended that I skip Grade 6 and go to Grade 7, but my guardians were against me being promoted to upper grades. They decided that I should follow the sequence of grades.”

Ntuli describes herself as a laid-back person who enjoys watching cartoons, reading books and cracking jokes, and nothing like the genius that many consider her to be. “I see myself as a problem-solver, and the type of person who thinks and does things differently from others,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, making the leap from high school to tertiary education has been challenging for Ntuli. “Transitioning to university and adjusting is a bit difficult with COVID-19 playing a role. Not being able to attend physical classes means I had to learn how to use a computer fully. Also, at high school, we got one-on-one time with teachers, but here it is different. The best trick is to use what you have to the best of your ability.” 

She says choosing to study at UP was an easy decision because she wanted to be associated with a prestigious university. “At first, I wanted to study medicine, but everything changed when I read up about actuarial science and realised that this profession is about problem-solving, which defines me,” she explains. “Actuarial science is about collecting complicated data and giving it out in its simplest forms; it is about maths, and I enjoy maths because it is precise and perfect. This course combines my love for maths, statistics and finance. If I can combine all of that and get one profession, why not actuarial science?”

Ntuli hopes to obtain her qualification in record time and eventually study towards a PhD. Her ultimate goal is to be an employer and create jobs.

Ntuli advises students who would like to enter the field of actuarial science to prepare themselves for the work ahead. “This profession and course comes with a whole lot of responsibilities and sacrifices,” she says. “One needs to be focused to be in this field, because there will be fails and sleepless nights.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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