Posted on September 13, 2016
The journey by road from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, across Zambia and Zimbabwe to South Africa took Dr Estimé Mukandila three days. He had to leave his pregnant wife in the middle of a civil war in order to further his studies at the University of Pretoria (UP).
Having obtained a BEng degree in mining from the University of Lubumbashi, Dr Mukandile was eager to further his studies. When he arrived at UP, one of his major challenges was speaking English. 'I was only exposed to basic English in high school and that was limited to greetings and nothing more,' he says. Dr Mukandila remembers one of his lecturers telling him that language was his only problem: 'My field of expertise involves mathematics and technical matters – the formula never changes. I just had to improve my English.' He took the opportunity to access the University's English centre to learn more and then began reading scientific books with the help of a French–English dictionary. 'Eventually I realised that I no longer needed the dictionary,' he says.
Dr Mukandila was a very successful student, obtaining his BScHons and his MSc, but he felt his long journey and the sacrifices he had made would not be justified until he had gone one step further and in 2010 he approached the Department of Civil Engineering to do his PhD. His research formed part of the broad SANRAL project to review the South African Road Design Method.
Dr Mukandila explains that his academic journey, though difficult, yielded him joy through perseverance and faith. He is inspired by his family and his passion for studying stems from his desire to help improve the lives and living conditions of others. 'I am not studying for myself, I am doing it for others, especially those in my country,' he concludes.
Dr Mukandila received his PhD at the University of Pretoria's Spring Graduations.
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