It’s the time of the year when he works the hardest. University students are preparing to get back into the swing of things, while school learners are deep into their first months of school. Dr John Ntshaope Molepo (29) knows very well that paying for university fees is not easy. That’s why he started #ThusaNgwanaGeno (help your brethren) in 2017 to aid underprivileged registered students with tuition fees.
To this day, the initiative has helped more than 200 students and raised over R300 000 in contributions. This year, he’s paired it up with a book-covering initiative.
THE NEW INITIATIVE
John remembers always getting his books covered later in the year as money was an issue at home. “Some learners do not have covers for books, which might discourage them when making comparisons with their peers. “So, we inspire learning through little but meaningful efforts, such as colourful book covers and involving the kids in the process.
“It has become a national project, going across provinces with numbers of volunteers ranging from 30 people. The project is self-funded, while some helpers also donate materials.” He believes in empowering through education. “I grew up in a very disadvantaged background, my mother [Betty Molepo, 51] is a domestic worker and my father [Freddy Molepo, 58] was a worker in a paint factory.
I am the first of three children and I adore my siblings, Lemi (24) and Maggy (15). I grew up in a family with parents who are survivors.”
He’s been a leader all his life and describes himself as a vocal person with the ability to speak on behalf of others. John initially did not want to enrol in university, he went there to change the situation at home. His instinct was to pursue an academic career.
“I enrolled for public management at the eleventh hour. However, I wanted to get into the working environment to bring money home and help my parents in any way possible, studying was not in my plans.”
BEING OF SERVICE
During his first year at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) he was a class representative and went on to become student assistant, a house committee member, then a presenter on a talk show on TUT FM from 7pm-9pm on Mondays.
“While in university, I realised that being of service to fellow students can be beneficial in the long run.
So, during my tenure as a student assistant, I gathered enough information for research purposes to support my studies.” It was all worth it when he became the youngest person to be granted a doctoral degree in public affairs at TUT last year.
He’s currently based in Nelspruit where he’s a senior lecturer in public administration at the University of Mpumalanga.
His achievements also earned him recognition by the presidency with a Compassion award for his contribution to his community, leadership skills and bravery.
His weekends are spent driving home to his parents’ home in Soshanguve, where he uses the time to reflect. “I am always thinking about how I can change people’s lives and add value.”
The PhD graduate views himself as both a hunter and a gatherer. “I hunt for success and for other people to succeed, and I gather resources for people to access.
“If there is a family in need, I will try my utmost best to help. “I know what it’s like to be in their shoes, and my purpose is not to enrich myself but to assist those in need,” John says. “I think of myself as an angel, I wish people well and hope to always see them glow.”
DREAMS TAKE TIME
John knows about being impatient for success. But he wants the youth to know that everything takes time. “If things are not going your way, be patient; young people do not persevere, we mostly want quick results. “If we are patient enough, what we want to achieve will happen. I go by the verse Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’.” And sometimes dreams change.
John envisioned himself as a businessperson with a chain of hotels when he was younger. He then wanted to be the first in his community to obtain a PhD once he realised the vastness of his path, “to show the young ones that it is possible to have a better outcome and change people’s lives while at it”. John has been nominated for the Avance Media 2019 most influential young South Africans award in the personal development and academia category. Now that he’s achieved his first goal, he wants to get second doctorate at an international institution. “I chose to pursue my second doctorate at the University of Dubai after meeting the vice-chancellor who pursued me to try out a futuristic course within the fourth industrial revolution.I am inspired to try out something new.” For now, he wants to bring an element of entrepreneurship into the #ThusaNgwanaGeno initiative, to invite the students who have graduated from the programme; the residents within communities to return and plough back into the organisation; while helping students to buy textbooks and obtain their learner’s and driver’s licences.