Shylette Ngwenya is a third-year medical student at the University of Zimbabwe. She volunteers at Doctors and Nurses on a Mission, Zimbabwe. In the last 2 years, she has been nominated for several youth leadership awards and recently won the Covid-19 frontline heroine award presented by the Ignite Youth Organisation.
Shylette is passionate about youth empowerment and this led to her birthing the Young People for Jesus(YPFJ) initiative. YPFJ aims at shaping young leaders who are re-imagined under the wisdom of God. The organisation is actively involved in charity work with a targeted focus on vulnerable groups namely orphans, street-urchins, and school children in rural areas. This is in line with the main aim, which is to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
WiredUp had a Q & A session with Shylette Ngwenya
Who is Shylette Ngwenya? What is your background?
Shylette Ngwenya is an aspiring medical doctor from a remote area in Zimbabwe, Binga. She is the lastborn in a family of eight and the first generation to go to university.
Shylette experienced a horrendous scene at the age of five when she witnessed her father take his last breath in their home in the small village of Binga. She skipped kindergarten due to her father's long illness and had to start school at the age of seven.
During fourth grade, one of her siblings, who is a professional teacher, took her in, having realised her tremendous potential and refined qualities that could be cultivated to greatly impact the larger part of the society.
Shylette topped her high school classes despite the often forbidding environment that she was exposed to. She adapted to embrace life's challenges through gathering positive perspectives in every situation.
Being a third-year medical student at the University of Zimbabwe and someone who is passionate about youth empowerment, what are you aiming for and why?
Diogenes once said, "The foundation of every state is the education of its youth." Empowering the youths is the basis for change in any nation. They are the future fathers and mothers who can either make the world a better place or completely destroy it. Youths are also the most vulnerable people in this era because they are exposed to anything. My aim is to bring about a mindset that is willing to elevate their lives. For instance, I look forward to engaging them in programmes that talk about mental health and realising their potential. I have already started on that through our organisation, called Young People for Jesus, that engages young people on different topics such as mental health, sex, and leadership, just to name a few.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Growing up I had low self-esteem. The transition from the village to the second-largest city in Zimbabwe affected me as I was the only Tonga person in my class and because of that, I thought I was not worth anything. I am shy and it became worse during this period until I finished high school. In 2020, I decided to take up space because Harare (where am attending university) had opened up my mind and that's when I realised that I had more to offer to this world than I was doing in my inner circle. Therefore, I decided to pursue my purpose.
What challenges have you encountered on your journey in the field of STEM, and how have you overcome some of these challenges?
When I received my results in 2019, I applied for scholarships but I did not receive any positive response. In 2021, around September, the person who was paying for my university tuition and accommodation could not do it anymore because of some reasons beyond their control. I was stranded.
Someone advised me to do an interview just to put my story out there as there were plenty of well-wishers. I felt like I was begging, but then again I had no option than to do it. I did the interview and it was released to the world. A lot of people reached out to a point that I did not know who to choose, as most of them wanted to take me through school. I had a positive feeling about one couple; not only that, but their love for God was a core principle they held that I resonated with. It immediately stood out to me. Paulo Coelho said it best when he said, "And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". Surely this quote materialised when I was in the tunnel. I took up the offer and now I can say that I am living a life I never imagined. God came through for me in His time.
How do you think we can start to get more African children exposed to STEM?
We can create spaces where children in the lower grades are engaged and they are introduced to STEM before the world scares them off. Most people assume that STEM programmes are difficult and that it's hard to make it out alive. But if over a million people have made it or are taking up those programmes, anyone determined enough can do it. If it has been done before, it can still be done even today. Let's train them to think outside the box.