Umlazi teen’s acceptance into Harvard

2016-01-26 06:00
Mfundo Radebe. Photo: supplied

Mfundo Radebe. Photo: supplied

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WHEN I first met 18-year-old Mfundo Radebe from Umlazi I knew this young man would make a difference to his generation.

His ability to hold the attention with those who were probably three times his age and his command of the English language, in this social media age, blew me away.

In 2015 he won the title of “International Grand Champion” in the Magna Carta competition after the public-speaking finals in London. His essay on government and the Constitution had been selected as the best across Africa giving him the opportunity of travelling to London.

This Umlazi teen is also proof that perseverance and hard work pays off as he persevered getting into Crawford College firstly and it paid off when he received his results with eight distinctions.

This year Mfundo will embark on a new journey as he enters the academic world at Harvard College in the U.S. on a scholarship.

The Fever sat down with Mfundo as he floated on a cloud after receiving his matric results.

Valene Govender: Tell me about the Magna Carta competition.

Mfundo Radebe : The Magna Carta competition was something I found out about haphazardly, if I may say, and I was very intrigued about it. The task was simple - if you could rewrite a certain portion of the world’s, country’s, or a region’s laws, what would you write about?

It was a commemoration of the 800th year since the sealing of Magna Carta, a document which protected the people of England against the tyranny of the power-abusing king at the time. It was only befitting that I write about the oft-alleged abuse of power by certain sectors of the South African government. I think as South Africans we are very vocal about our government, hence I was able to articulate in writing my thoughts on how the government’s powers can be limited in about two hours.

VG: Your matric achievement is absolutely outstanding and definitely a case of hard work paying off. Tell me about the build-up and how you prepared for the exams.

MR: Matric is a big thing as it determines your future. I optimally prepared for the exams thoroughly and this started at the beginning of the year. Due to the Magna Carta competition I had to start prepping well in advance. I even studied on the flight to London. I knew my strengths – physics and maths are not my strengths - so I spent more time working on these subjects. I received excellent support from the principal of Crawford College La Lucia, Jenny Coetze. Her belief in me made a huge difference to my academic life and my experiences at Crawford College was so everything and more.

VG: Why politics?

MR: Politics is a very interesting “game”. It is unfortunate in today’s society that most politicians are not moving the world forward, but rather slowing our progress. But, as I understand and believe, I think that politics is a special field where, if the people involved can put their differences aside, they can make meaningful change in the world that can be scalable and measured. I feel that politics is the easiest tool we can realistically use to liberate people from poverty and economic desperation. And simply put, I believe that politics is, and can be, a good influencer in world events. A career in public service probably seems inevitable for me at some point in my life.

VG: Describe how you felt you got the news about Harvard and how you feel now.

MR: When I first found out that I had gotten into Harvard, I was very excited. It was probably the best news I had heard in my entire life, but now that this and my acceptance into Harvard has sunk in, it has taken on a new form - one of mostly fear and somehow a lot less relief than I thought I would have. I fear exactly what I will do after my Harvard journey ends. I know I have a keen interest in business and law, but I am honestly of the hope that the hand of God will guide me going forwards into the future. But that’s my more curious side coming out there. On the surface I think I am generally excited for the journey that will come.

VG: What is one of the highlights in your high-school career.

MR: The highlight of my school career was when I received a call from Jenny Coetzee, principal of Crawford College La Lucia, and a woman I admire so much. Getting to Crawford I think was a long, but exciting process. I will not go into the exact details, but in short it involved constant communication with Crawford and so when I received the call after many times of not being able to receive a scholarship, telling me I would be able to attend Crawford on a 100% bursary, I felt for the first time in my life what victory felt like.

VG: Where can we expect to see Mfundo in the next five years.

MR: I see myself standing at Checkers or Pick n Pay trying to figure out where I left my wallet and secretly hoping everybody behind me isn’t thinking, “… and he went to Harvard”. On a serious note, in five years I hope I will be living up to the expectations of a Harvard man - albeit, not the legacy of using my intellect to cause another Wall Street crash.

See more from Mfundo in the Fever as he writes opinion pieces in February.

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