Making it into varsity creates overwhelming and uncontainable excitement – but new entrants usually don’t know what lies ahead for them. This is especially so if they are the first ones in their families to set their foot in a university.
This experience, and his brother’s curiosity, prompted a twenty-two-year-old chemical engineer from Limpopo, Muimeleli Mutangwa, to write a book that gives an overview on what to expect at varsity. It’s titled Before Varsity.
“I was at home after my graduation and my brother, who was in matric, asked me about my experience at varsity. I’d answer him and find myself telling things I’ve already said. So I thought, ‘Why not write all this down?’ because he wasn’t the only one interested to know. The writing just flowed because there was a lot to write about, and I reached over 20 000 words before I knew it.”
Muimeleli was raised by both his parents, alongside four siblings, and being a high achiever is nothing new to this bright spark. “I was the SRC president in matric and I was announced as the best learner,” Muimeleli says. He completed his matric in 2010 and obtained his chemical engineering degree – with distinctions in some courses! – at Wits University in 2014.
But don’t assume his varsity life was a smooth ride. Muimeleli remembers the speed bumps that slowed down his academic progress.
“We spoke TshiVenda at school back home and the issue that I faced at varsity was communicating in English. I found that spoken and written English were two different things and for the first months I befriended TshiVenda-speaking-guys cos I couldn’t communicate with others. It affected me academically cos I couldn’t ask for clarity in class or approach the people who understood something,” he recalls.
But for Muimeleli, a place he visited for term time became home, and strangers soon became family. “I then joined the debating society, which was very welcoming and understanding of my situation. Debate was then a platform for me to practise spoken English. I was consistent and at the end of that year we went to Zimbabwe Pan African Debate Championships (PADC)…, where African universities competed. We lost, but for me it was a learning experience. My verbal communication skills were improving.”
Debating also, of course, improved his thinking skills, as debaters have to think up and logically present arguments around tricky issues. Muimeleli eventually saw the English dots connecting and that boosted his morale, so he pushed harder.
“I joined Toastmasters International which focuses on language and helps you improve your public speaking skills. Each project you’re given focuses on a certain aspect of public speaking, for example body language, voice variety and its approach is more specific.”
Muimeleli adds that he he received a Competent Communication Award and a Competent Leadership Award and is still doing further training on ‘Advanced Speaking Manuals’ at the Wits Business School Toastmasters International Club, where he’s the president.
Muimeleli then saved money and enrolled for an English short course at Wits Language School, which he “passed very well”. Now, like an elephant mouth-to-mouth feeding its offspring, Muimeleli is passing his knowledge onto fellow students.
“I’m currently a Writing Consultant at the Wits Writing Centre where I assist students with their work. We basically look at students’ written work, such as essays, and edit for them and earn a few bucks.”
But public speaking is not the only art he partakes in: his poetry sessions on YouTube will force you to buy extra data, just to see him perform!
“Poetry is life. I tried playing guitar but it didn’t speak to me. Now people invite me to perform sometimes. I competed at the Drama for Life Lover and Another Poetry Competition last year. Everyone goes for auditions and fifteen people are chosen. I made it to the top five and, mind you, I was competing with people who started poetry at high school and I began just in 2014. For me that was a huge achievement,” says the content young man.
Muimeleli doesn’t neglect the body either. He also takes part in ‘Tang Soo Do’, a form of Korean martial arts, which took him to South African Champs in 2016, where he came in third place in his division.
However not even ‘Jack of all trades’ describes what Muimeleli is. It’s not every day that a 22-year-old excels in engineering, language arts, martial arts, and now – business.
“There was an Entrepreneurial Challenge on campus in 2014, where you come and pitch your idea, and attend workshops. There were twenty ideas that were pitched and mine came first. The first prize was R10 000. However, the guys who were supposed to sponsor ended up not paying the varsity and I didn’t receive the money,” he says, disappointed. Muimeleli had designed T-shirts for that competition, but moved on from that idea because soon “everyone was doing T-shirts.”
He then entered another competition organised by Be Bold that “took different ideas from different national campuses and came up with National Intervarsity Business Pitch Competition. The guy who was number one made bricks from paper. My idea came second. I saw how lazy people were to wash their sneakers and my idea was a shoe cleaning company. I took R10 000, and the organisers bought ten percent shares for another R10 000,” he adds. Muimeleli set up a registered company based on this idea: ‘Tailor Klinik’. Be Bold is helping him “with the logistics of expanding the business.”
Using his chemical engineering knowledge, Muimeleli manufactured his own cleaning detergent using a lecturer’s laboratory.
“I want to have my own shoe cleaning store and open franchises all over the country. Those store owners will be coming to me as I’ll be their detergent supplier.” Visit Tailor Klinik on facebook and find out how you can buy shares and become a shareholder.
Creating his own detergent was just the beginning – Muimeleli is currently doing Masters in Chemical Engineering which he’s set to complete later in 2016.
Another thing on his plate is a second edition of his book. “I had friends who were in the English literature department for editing my first draft for Before Varsity. The person who did the layout was actually another friend of mine doing Computer Science. A friend in the law faculty secured me copyright. I’m still approaching different companies to sponsor the book to students and most have come to the party.” He adds that people love the book and some suggested “points of improvement” that he has included in this addition.
FunDza loved Before Varsity so much that you, the valued reader, can access it for free here.
“Students can change the world because they have access to the uncapped internet and they are in the same place at the same time with different people who are studying towards different things. The time’s now. If you want to do something about your life, then do it now,” he concludes.