Who am I?

My name is Khululwa Mfondini and I’m 33 years old of age. My Job title is Chief Auxiliary Services Officer, at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) based in the Pretoria National Herbarium. I started in this company in 2013 as a Conservation Officer, on a contract under GROEN SEBENZA. Before this contract, I was a Volunteer at Selmar Schonland Herbarium from 2009 after passing my Matric and at that time I didn’t even understand anything but as time went on, I was interested to be based in the Herbarium, as it was my first-time hearing about it. I wanted to learn, get knowledge of what a Herbarium is, what they mean by ‘identifying specimens’ and also the characteristics of plants when identifying the specie.

While I was a Volunteer in 2012, I attended the Integrated Heritage Resource Management Practice (IHRMP) course at Rhodes University and graduated in October of the same year.

In 2014 I joined SANBI permanently and I was based in the KwaZulu-Natal Herbarium in Durban, as a Principal Auxiliary Services Officer, and I worked there from 1st July 2014 until 31st March 2018. In April 2018, I was promoted to the Chief Auxiliary Services Officer position in the Pretoria National Herbarium.

What do I do?

As a Chief Auxiliary Service Officer, I’m doing physical curation, mounting, specimens data input processes, scientific services & wing coordination, digitization and identifying Cucurbitaceae and Hypoxis families, under supervision.

What struggles have I overcome to get where I am?

It was not easy. At school, I did Accounting and Business Studies which is very different from science. With those subjects, it was a challenge and struggle to understand Science, Biology etc. It took me five years to learn most of the things about Herbaria, what happens there, and what subjects or qualifications you must have to qualify to work there.

How did I do it?

I took it one step at a time and adjusted myself to the new phase. I overcame a lot of things by giving myself a chance to learn and accept the situation I was facing at that time. I’m so grateful that I got that opportunity to learn more about other opportunities, even though I never studied further. Because of God’s grace, I’m very happy and proud to be where I am now.

How can young people do the same?

My advice to young people is:

  • Don’t lose hope.
  • You need to trust yourself in everything.
  • Whatever opportunity you get, make sure you grab it with both hands in order to be successful in life.
  • Whatever that you have studied, make sure you understand it.
  • If it’s not working for you, take another chance to start afresh, believe in yourself, have knowledge, get more information before you start the journey and never listen to people who will make you feel you’re doing the wrong thing. Your future comes first.
  • If your plan didn’t work, that doesn’t mean your success is over. Be realistic and believe that one day you will see yourself somewhere.
  • Never forget where you’re coming from.
  • In order for everything to be successful in life, always pray and ask God to give you direction when you feel like losing hope and be very specific of whatever you wish in life.

You too can share your #TheScienceStruggleIsReal story

Email Fulu at f.gelebe@sanbi.org.za or WhatsApp at 0728822332.