At 23-years-old, Sheeny Mnisi has amassed academic accolades at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and has been acknowledged by the City of Johannesburg and the National Department of Health for her achievements. She graduated cum laude at UJ on Wednesday, 3 May 2017 and aims to pass with distinction in her next BTech qualification in Environmental Health.
Born and bred in Delmas, a small town in Mpumalanga, located not far from the east of Gauteng province, Mnisi changed primary schools (Khangezile, Masimini, Dunnottar, Actonville, and Rietkol) because her family moved from one place to another. Later in her teen years, she matriculated at Sundra High School.
In 2014, Mnisi enrolled for a national diploma in Environmental Health at UJ at the Doornfontein Campus. She enrolled for the course, because, she says, it gives one an opportunity to impact the lives of people every day.
Raised by an unemployed, single parent, growing up with her two sisters, Minisi did not have much. “When I started my first year at UJ, life at home was difficult. I knew I had to go to school in order to build a better life for my family and I. My mother was unemployed and I could not get any funding. The only thing my mom could buy me was a monthly train ticket to get to school. I used to travel from Mpumalanga to Johannesburg every day by train for school. I was never able to study because I used to get home at 9pm in the evening after a long train ride. I have always tried to study in the train but it was difficult. I was unable to buy prescribed textbooks and I did not own any handheld device. It was really difficult, but I told myself that I HAD to make it,” says Mnisi.
She adds that the free meals provided by UJ and the Gift of the Givers enables students to survive through their studies. “I did not even know how I was going to pay my fees. I just wanted to study. I wanted to make it. By the grace of God in all the storms I faced that year, I still became top achieving student in Environmental Health. Since then, I have never looked back. I knew if I made it that year I can overcome any obstacle,” she says.
Some of Mnisi’s achievements since her first year at UJ:
2014: Overall top achiever; Best student award in the City of Johannesburg; Best professional behaviour.
2015: UJenius club member; overall top achiever; Best student award in the City of Johannesburg.
2016: Overall top achiever: Best student award in the City of Johannesburg; UJenius club member; Undergraduate researcher; Top achiever in occupational health and safety; Nominee top achiever nationally (Award by National Department of Health); 14 out of 16 distinctions received.
2017: Best student award nationally (Award by the South African Institute for Environmental Health); Nominee best student award in the City of Johannesburg.
Mnisi concludes: “I am currently studying towards my Btech qualification in Environmental Health. I am aiming to also graduate with distinction because I want to be the best in the field and also want to show a confused little poor girl somewhere in South Africa that it is possible.”