Perseverance pays off

2015-11-18 06:00
“From struggle to success” was the theme tackled by panellists (from left) Gugu Nxiweni, Lunga Tshikila and (right) Hilton Sansom, at the end-of-year function for NMMU’s PinnAcle Leadership Programme, where student Bongeka Mbonisweni was also awarded

“From struggle to success” was the theme tackled by panellists (from left) Gugu Nxiweni, Lunga Tshikila and (right) Hilton Sansom, at the end-of-year function for NMMU’s PinnAcle Leadership Programme, where student Bongeka Mbonisweni was also awarded

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AT first glance, Hilton Sansom is your stereotypical “privileged student”. The well-spoken 22-year-old attended Grey High, matriculated in 2011 with a 93% aggregate, and received one of NMMU’s most prestigious bursaries – the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship, currently worth R80 000-plus annually – for each year of his BCom (Chartered Accountancy) degree.

But what most people don’t realise is just how hard Sansom had to work to get there. Growing up as the only child of a single, unemployed mother, he has – since the age of nine – relied on bursaries for his education.

Academic excellence became his ticket to success – and he grew up defining himself in terms of the marks he achieved, so much so that when his results dipped in a very challenging third year and again during this, his Honours year, he sank into depression.

Sansom’s slump, however, was the start of his finding direction in life. “I needed to find out what my strengths were as a human being and not as a student.”

Having realised after three years that auditing was “not really [his] thing”, he was able to identify his passion for the fashion industry – and is now planning to apply his business knowledge to build a career in this field.

“I learned a lot about myself and found the direction I need to take in life. For me, that’s success already.”

Sansom was one of three panellists sharing their “struggle to success” stories at the end-of-year function for NMMU School of Accounting’s PinnAcle Leadership Programme, a ground-breaking programme designed to fast-track the development of the School’s top 80 Chartered Accountancy students into responsible leaders.

The other two panellists were Lunga Tshikila (24), an orphan who dropped out of university in 2012 but has gone on to become one of South Africa’s top young CEOs, and Gugu Nxiweni (35), a Chartered Accountant, NMMU alumnus and social entrepreneur who recently co-founded his own company.

In his talk, Nxiweni, the Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Improvate Group of Companies, said: “Success in itself is not a goal. Success is a barometer against which we measure the achievement of stated and unstated objectives . . . But success is meaningless without impact. As you do things and set goals for yourself, make sure you focus on the things that can change the world.”

Nxiweni’s company focuses on infrastructure-related opportunities, including supplying construction and building material to emerging contractors involved in the construction of RDP houses.

At the function, PinnAcle students also reflected on the various leadership tasks they have completed over the year, from driving their own entrepreneurial projects to assist NMMU Vice-Chancellor Derrick Swartz in his Mount Fuji fundraising quest for bursaries, to running 10 Parkruns to raise awareness around 10 critical issues, to helping out at the Lukhanyiso Children’s Home. – REPORTER

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