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2015 WWF Prince Bernhard Scholar
We chat to Kholosa Magudu, an inspiring young woman who has her career aspirations set on connecting people through the power of water.
Born and raised in the rural village of KwaHlomendlini in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, Kholosa was always surrounded by nature. From fetching water in the nearby river to playing in the open grasslands, she had an idea from an early age that she wanted to follow a career that would contribute to the wellbeing of nature and people. Since 2016, she has been a Project Manager in WWF’s freshwater team where she works with communities in the Ceres valley to encourage water stewardship.
Kholosa shares insights into her career journey and how the WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship (PBS) has contributed to her professional development.
Tell us about your education journey.
As a child, I went to Ntabazijongene Junior Secondary School in Matatiele. The school was just around the corner from our home and only a short five-minute walk. Yet, we used to start preparing two hours before school because there were only two bath tubs for six of us - so we took turns to have a bath each morning with the water we’d fetch the previous day. Waking up early was not easy for me, though I always looked forward to going to school!
After I completed junior school, I moved to KwaZulu-Natal where I did my grade 10-12, at Carl Malcomess High School, a public school in the urban suburb of Kokstad.
This is where I confirmed my love for the environment, largely due to my exceptional Biology teacher. I was one of the brightest learners in class, and was selected to represent the school in a number of external events. A favourite was the annual National Schools’ Enviro Quiz where I got to learn even more about the environment!
By the time I completed Grade 12, I was 100% certain that a career in the environment was for me!
The University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg was my gateway to this world. Studying Environmental Sciences, I particularly loved Ecological Sciences.
Hungry to gain skills and knowledge in my field, I also took on voluntary and part-time work on campus, tutoring first year Biology students and in a community organisation assisting with environmental monitoring and assessments. After my undergraduate degree, I went on to do Honours in Ecological Sciences and later a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences which was partly funded by the PBS.
Why did you choose to follow your career path?
Apart from my love for nature which I developed at an early age, I became curious to learn more about water as I grew older, because I had been surrounded by beautiful rivers when growing up. I also wanted to study something that would connect me with people, and help them understand how essential the environment is to all of us. So, water is just that one big resource that connects us all.
What inspired you to apply for the PBS?
I became aware of the scholarship through Mr Doug Burden, then my manager at Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), a community education and river monitoring project in KwaZulu-Natal where I was working in 2015. He forwarded the application on to me and “instructed” me to apply. I took the “instruction” as a compliment but was also a bit nervous as I did not know what to expect. I saw it as a great opportunity since the scholarship is affiliated with WWF, an organisation that I have long admired and wished to be involved with. So, I did not waste time, I went for it.
How has the PBS contributed to your professional development?
I benefited from the value-add of the PBS financial support, which contributed to my studies and to building my capacity and confidence. I have gained experience way beyond the scope of my research focus. With the help of the PBS funding, I was also able to attend conferences that I would otherwise not have been able to due to the costs. This exposed me to broader environmental networking platforms and a holistic view of what the water sector has to offer.
What do you consider to be your greatest career-related achievement?
My greatest achievement to date has been the culmination of small successes and positive lessons from challenges and failures in the work that I do. The positive changes that I have seen from working in community water stewardship since 2013 are very encouraging. While change has been gradual, people are slowly making the link between water security and their livelihoods and health, and the impact on their children. Many community members are proud to say that they are taking action for the environment. We are seeing more environmental champions who are excited about making a difference, which is very rewarding.
What role do you think your generation can play in creating a better world?
There is a lot this generation can do to contribute towards the advancement of our society. Instead of being spectators we can actively be involved and apply ourselves as part of the solution to social ills. To be part of the solution, we need to improve ourselves and exercise the ability and potential we have to influence and impact positively on our communities, beyond our families and immediate circles.