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July 4, 2017

A life-changing experience

Jonathan Banza

My name is Jonathan Banza and I will soon be attending the prestigious African Leadership Academy (ALA). This institution aims to develop and network the next generation of African leaders. An academy five years prior to this moment, I never thought I will be accepted into, let alone think of applying to. Although I can claim that it is through hard work, that I got accepted into ALA, yes with no doubt hard work played a key role, but hard work was not the only factor. Gaining admission into ALA was due to a combination of good decision making, guidance and platforms afforded me, that allowed me to see the bigger picture. This was all facilitated through the generous financial and emotional support and encouragement I received from the Inkanyezi Project. And this is how it all began....

I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but spent my formative years in South Africa. Coming from a humble background made me understand the importance and power of education from a very early age. To put it in the words of the late Nelson Mandela, I soon realised that education is the “greatest weapon” that I can use to overcome my circumstances and empower myself.

My dedication to educate and empower myself, and change my circumstances, did not go unnoticed. During my grade 9 year, my then Principal selected three students, including myself from the entire grade, to apply for a merit bursary that the Zenex Foundation, in partnership with BankSETA, was offering through the Inkanyezi Project. After a very stringent application process consisting of essays, tests and interviews, I was selected to be part of the Inkanyezi Project from 2014 to 2016. This was the turning point in my educational journey because I had the assurance that I could complete my school education without having to worry about finance. But just acknowledging that the Inkanyezi Project only took care of my financial needs would be an understatement, because being part of the Project, I was given access to a group of supportive individuals that monitored my academic progress and provided me with extra academic support in the form of tuition classes and academic camps. Together, this ensured that I excelled academically and built my confidence. As part of Inkanyezi, I was able to participate in the National English Olympiad, annual Inkanyezi Inter-School Club Competitions, which pushed me to apply whatever I had learnt in the classroom to address real life situations. This all lead to my holistic development and opened doors to many opportunities for me, such as attaining the position of Deputy Head Boy and various leadership positions in my community, eventually leading to me gaining admission into the African Leadership Academy.

“You can never pay back, but you can always pay forward”
- Woody Hayes

There is no doubt that the Inkanyezi Project has, and continues, to play a pivotal role in my educational journey. Realising the life-changing experience that the Inkanyezi Project has been, lead me to start Project Phambili, my way of giving back a fraction of the support I have received through the Inkanyezi Project. Project Phambili assists matriculants with the application process for university and financial aid and prepares learners for university life and tertiary studies by connecting them with accountable mentors who are currently enrolled in university studying in a similar field. “You can never pay back, but you can always pay forward” Woody Hayes. I would like to thank the project managers Wendy and Dawn for their never ending support and love, and for being mother figures to many of the learners on the Project.

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