22 April 2021 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied

While two recipients of the Dean’s Medal in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) April graduation ceremonies reached their respective dreams, another one is one step closer to her achieving her own childhood dream.  

Sebotsana Paula Rasebotsa, graduated cum laude with a Master of Medical Science specialising in Virology in February this year, while Cecelia Marais was awarded the Dean’s Medal for achieving the best results in respect of a master’s degree in the Faculty of Health Sciences during April’s graduation ceremonies. Marais graduates on Thursday (22 April 2021) cum laude with a Master of Nursing degree.

Another Dean’s Medal winner, Mandi van der Merwe, graduated on Monday (19 April 2021) with a Bachelor of Medical Science Honours in Anatomy and Cell Morphology and was awarded the medal for achieving the best results in respect of a Bachelor Honours degree in the Faculty of Health Sciences. 

One step closer

Rasebotsa, who has suffered anxiety and depression several times, says it had always been her childhood dream of having the title of doctor.  

“I always told myself from a young age that i wanted to be referred to as doctor by the time I was through with my studies. I am glad that I am one step closer to achieving my childhood dream. What motivated me through this journey was the drive to be part of the scientists who are bringing about solutions to African problems through our research,” says Rasebotsa.

“I never anticipated that; the very same girl who attended high school in the township of Seshego in Polokwane, and who didn’t have a laboratory nor secured a bursary for her undergraduate studies, would manage to navigate her way through varsity and be considered as a young upcoming scientist with a master’s degree. 

“Special thanks to the CSIR, NRF, PRF, and UFS bursaries for believing in me and funding my postgraduate studies. I am very proud and overwhelmed with joy every time I think of what I have achieved as a young, black, female scientist,” says Rasebotsa.

Obtaining a postgraduate qualification a dream come true

Marais, who completed her studies in December 2020, says she is truly thankful to the Lord for giving her the strength and knowledge to accomplish all the things she has. 

“It has always been my dream that after I first graduated in 1994 I would obtain postgraduate qualifications.  I am hoping to be able to study further and obtain my PhD.” In 2018, she completed an Advanced University Diploma in Nursing Education (with distinction). 

According to her, 2020 was challenging due to not being able to have face-to-face contact with her study supervisors. Skype and Zoom meetings, however, made it possible to continue her studies. Says Marais: “It was truly a huge challenge to balance work, studying, and my family at the same time without neglecting any of them. Being faced with a community that did not understand why someone of my age wanted to study was another challenge.”

Dream to do medicine

Van der Merwe says her biggest motivation came from her dream of wanting to study medicine. “Throughout my studies I continuously applied to do medicine and although I only got accepted now, the rejection motivated me to always do my best and get good marks. Another motivator was my older sister, who is currently a master's student, also at the UFS, who was a great example and mentor to me,” she says. 

She is currently doing her first year of medicine (MBChB) at the University of Pretoria.

“I am proud of myself, and I know my family is too and that makes me really happy.  My message to others would be to always work for what you want and to follow your dreams, no matter the cost, as the end result of all the hard work is so rewarding,” says Van der Merwe.

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