Stumbling blocks on her path will not deter Nokukhanya Mkhize from living up to her name and shining light wherever she goes.
Nokukhanya Mkhize won’t venture out without a smile on her face. “No matter what the situation is, I cannot leave home without a happy face,” she acknowledges. “I have realised how smiling just makes life easier, especially when you are dealing with people.”
Life has not been easy for the Bcom graduate who had to enter the job market immediately after graduating to help provide for her family. Nokukhanya is now working fulltime as a trainee auditor at Auditor General South Africa, while studying part-time to complete her articles and qualify as a chartered accountant. “I want to qualify as a CA because I want to finish what I have started; it has been a rocky road as I had to repeat the whole qualification as per the requirement, but thank goodness I eventually passed,” she says.
While she may have had to shift the goal posts, Nokukhanya says her goals have not shifted: “The only thing that has changed is the reason why I want to achieve some of my goals. In the past my number one reason had everything to do with money – but as I grow up I have realised that, if there’s anything I want to be in life, it is to be happy and if possible make the people around me happy.”
This is a fitting ambition for the girl whose name means ‘Light’. “My mom always reminds me how happy and proud she is that I have followed my name (Nokukhanya means light) as she thinks I have brought light to the family by being the first one to obtain a degree,” says Nokukhanya.
Her mother, she says, is her greatest inspiration. “She believes in me more than I believe in myself. I am also inspired by her resilient power, her attribute of always hoping that things will eventually fall into their perfect places and by how, throughout the years, she has proven to be the epitome of tenacity. Every time I feel tired or like giving up, I always think of the hope she has in me,” notes Nokukhanya.
A source of encouragement
Born in the rural KwaZulu-Natal town of Eshowe, Nokukhanya grew up in Lindelani – a township in Durban – and was raised in “the warmth of one big happy family,” she says. Though they experienced hardship, it’s the love and support she received that carries Nokukhanya forward. School, too, was a source of encouragement. “My teachers used to believe in me so much, and kept reminding me that I have the potential to become something great in life. I was young and naïve, and not as focused as I would become in university, but I think that helped boost my confidence and made me take things seriously,” she reflects.
University proved a learning curve for the dedicated student, who grew exponentially while studying. “University taught me not to be shy to shout when I need help with anything. It also taught me to make informed decisions about my life,” she says, adding that this lesson has led to her only regret in life. “If there is one thing I could do over, is to be fearless and unapologetic in choosing myself and putting myself first in whatever decision I make about my life. I believe one of the biggest mistakes I have been making in my life is putting people before me,” notes Nokukhanya.
This has not dimmed her ambitions or her motivation to spread her light to the world, though. “Nothing motivates me more than seeing people who have been in similar and worse situation than mine, achieving their goals without making any excuses,” says Nokukhanya. “I am motivated by people who have succeeded in life when all the situations and circumstances they have been through were against them.”
Having achieved her initial goal of completing university, thanks to the Moshal Scholarship Program, Nokukhanya is intent on moving forward, and spurring others on to reaching their goals, too. “As long as you have something to work towards, or anything to work with, be it your mind, your hands or anything, your dreams are valid and they can be achieved,” she says. “Don’t allow unfavourable situations to hinder you from achieving your goals, we all need to master breaking boundaries. Always remember to make your own happiness a number one priority,” she advises.
Nokukhanya’s ambitions are clear, and simple: “Each and every day I am looking forward to being the best version of myself, to be happy with myself. I want to be the best junior employee in the moment, so that I will be a great leader in future. I also want to be the best daughter to my mom and a great sister to my siblings,” she asserts – proving that her mother named her well, and Nokukhanya’s light will continue to shine!