Alumni Spotlight

Introducing Alum Bongiwe Gumede

A Dell Young Leaders programme student poses outside a university building

University: University of Cape Town, Class of 2013

Field of Study: Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy

Current Employment: Occupational Therapist currently practicing in a public school in Gauteng

Biggest Career Achievement to Date: As a Junior Therapist, I’ve set up and grown an occupational therapy centre at my place of employment

Tell us about your journey to university.

I grew up in a small South African town called Dannhauser in KwaZulu Natal. I used to walk long distances to school and other facilities, including health care facilities. This was often my time to reflect and think about my future. I would take my grandmother to our local health care facility and I noticed that people walked in with different kinds of ailments, but always walked out feeling better. This sparked the idea in me that I wanted to help people. I wanted to be someone different, and getting a higher education was a way to be that different someone.

What impact has the Dell Young Leaders programme had on your life?

When I became a Dell Young Leader, I wasn’t aware that the programme came with this much support. I didn’t know how to deal with the everyday pressures of university like many of my peers did, so having a mentor through the programme really helped me make that transition. Having a mentor meant that I could be real with someone and tell someone exactly how I felt and what I needed to move forward. I received individual support, and the support that I needed.

Being a Dell Young Leader has made me a better person. I was shy, withdrawn, and introverted when I started university. The Dell Young Leaders programme allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and experience different things. I’m now more confident in my abilities to advise other people on their challenges, and more confident speaking in front of groups of people.  

What impact has your university degree had on your life?

Being a first-generation university student was overwhelming and came with a lot of pressure. I’m from a community where there is a strong sense of companionship. I wasn’t just my mother and father’s child – I was a child of the whole community. Going to university wasn’t just for my family, it became something for my whole community.

Having a university degree has allowed me to become an agent of change in my home and community. It’s allowed me to open up a world of opportunities – not just for myself, but for the girl who lives next door. Their dreams are valid, too, and I want people to know that you can want and achieve something outside of the norm.

While you were in university, how did you prepare for a career?

Work readiness was important for me because it gave me a variety of experiences. Preparing for the world of work involved participating in the type of work that occupational therapists do in the private sector, but also what they do in the public sector. That way, I was ready for any job opportunities that came my way.

Tell us more about your career achievements.

My biggest achievement to date is that as a junior therapist I’ve already been able to set up an occupational therapy centre at the school where I work. Starting something from nothing was initially challenging, but through perseverance it’s now become a fully operational occupational therapy centre for the kids.