From humble beginnings in her KwaNongoma village, 23-year-old Silondiwe Magwaza has conquered many obstacles to reach her dream of becoming a construction manager.

For the young graduate, growing up with poor infrastructure motivated her to explore new ways to someday uplift her community. She is now the first member of her family to graduate with a degree.

Magwaza qualified from the University of Witwatersrand in 2019, obtaining her undergraduate degree in Construction Studies.

“Nongoma has very poor infrastructure and the provision of such seems to be moving at a very slow pace. Looking at all those challenges faced by my hometown, I was encouraged to do something related to construction so that I can be one of the people to change the current state,” she said.

But obtaining the qualification was not an easy feat at first.

Magwaza said she found it difficult to concentrate during her first year at university because of her constant worry over funding.

That is when the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) stepped in.

“During the course of my studies, I used to stress a lot about funding as I come from a disadvantaged background. That was until 2018 when I received a bursary from MISA which helped me a lot in completing my degree without any more stress. I had everything paid for, all had to do was to focus on my studies.” she said.

Magwaza is one of hundreds of students who pass through MISA’s youth development programmes each year. These programmes provide funding and support for motivated young students to get through their tertiary education as well as get placement in jobs in the built environment field upon qualification.

“I was really looking forward to our graduation ceremony. To me, it would have meant a lot considering the fact that I was going to be the first graduate in the family. I am still hoping that we have our graduation ceremony just like all other years, but that might not be possible given the current situation,” she said.

“At times, women are made to feel small within the industry. This is merely because their ability to bring about change in the construction industry is being doubted and sometimes their voices are not being heard.

“With all those facts given, I still chose construction management because I believe that I have the power to change the industry and improve where there is a need. I have seen women in this industry making it to top positions and having influence in the construction industry. This is why I also believe that I too can make it.”

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