School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

UKZN award winners (from left) Mr Sikwethembile Cira, Ms Fundiswa Shandu, Ms Ayanda Ndlovu and Mr Shaylin Naidoo.

Statistics Students Win Coveted National Awards

UKZN Statistics students have scooped four of the six bursaries and scholarships on offer for this year from the South African Statistical Association (SASA).

Three of the awards – open to SASA members involved in full-time studies at accredited universities – are for third-years with the rest earmarked for students at honours level.

For third-years there are two bursaries of R13 000 each and a scholarship of R8 000, while at honours level there are bursaries of R28 000 and R13 000, and a scholarship of R13 000. The various awards have academic merit and financial need criteria.

The UKZN third-year recipient was Mr Sikwethembile Cira while honours level winners were Ms Fundiswa Shandu, Ms Ayanda Ndlovu and Mr Shaylin Naidoo.

Cira attended Pietermaritzburg’s Linpark High School, and received a Vice-Chancellor’s undergraduate scholarship. A member of the Golden Key International Honour Society who has achieved merit certificates for several modules in his studies, he has served as a demonstrator in the Discipline of Computer Science.

Cira’s plans include pursuing a career in software engineering or data analysis, with studies in data science giving him the flexibility of pursuing either route. He thanked SASA for the scholarship that spurred him to pursue a career in the field of statistics and apply the concepts he has learned. It ensured he could complete his studies without accruing debt.

Cira’s family congratulated him with his mother Ms Thobeka Cira thanking organisations such as SASA, and emphasising the importance of her son staying humble.

Shandu, who attended Qiko High School in Umzinto, has excelled at her studies in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, receiving a Dean’s Commendation, a Golden Key International Honour Society certificate and an AECI bursary awarded to the top 10 achievers in her course.

The child of a single mother who raised her three children using a social grant and limited income from working as a street vendor, Shandu said the scholarship provided financial relief for her family, helping her to realise her dream of contributing to the data science industry. She plans to go on to do a Master’s degree in Statistics.

Shandu thanked UKZN and SASA for the chance to better her future.

Said her mother Mrs Sebenzile Shandu: ‘I am so proud of Fundiswa, and wish her nothing but the best. She has helped me a lot since she started studying at UKZN and is loving and considerate towards her family.’

Ndlovu, who received a scholarship, is from Ulundi where she attended Masibumbane High School. Set on becoming a data scientist, she is also passionate about increasing awareness among learners in rural areas, particularly young women, on careers and studies in data science. She plans to conduct awareness campaigns and workshops to achieve this.

A driven student, Ndlovu balanced working part-time while studying, and through dedication and good personal organisation she met every deadline and responsibility, consulting her lecturers when she needed assistance and striving for excellence in academics. She is a mentor and tutor in Statistics at UKZN.

Ndlovu said the scholarship had provided significant financial assistance, relieving the anxiety of funding her honours studies. She thanked SASA and UKZN for providing bursaries and the opportunity to access them.

Ndlovu’s aunt Ms Ntombifuthi Sikhakhane commending her for her work ethic and discipline, and for being a role model for her younger siblings.

Naidoo, who received a bursary for academic merit, was the top student in Statistics for two consecutive years and graduated with his undergraduate degree from UKZN summa cum laude, having achieved certificates of merit for all statistics modules since first-year as well as multiple Dean’s Commendations.

A Montarena Secondary School old boy, Naidoo discovered his passion for statistics during his undergraduate studies and plans to continue to master’s level. He said the scholarship would remove a lot of the financial burdens.

Naidoo plans to pursue a career in data science, starting at internship level in a large company and then working his way up to becoming an expert in his field.

He said the support he received at home and at UKZN had enabled him to clear hurdles in his path and achieve success. He credited his lecturers at UKZN for being a source of motivation.

His family commended Naidoo for his consistency and work ethic saying he always went the extra mile to help others and balanced confidence in his abilities with humility.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied