Meet Kgopotso – a Rays of Hope trailblazer in the food technology industry

Like most kids, Nomaswazi Gwebu (known affectionately as Kgopotso) dreamed about what career she would pursue when she was older, changing her mind from wanting to be a lawyer to a doctor and even an engineer, and eventually settling on biotechnology. Her love of learning and dedication to seeing her dreams become a reality, despite her circumstances, were what brought her to where she is now – working as a quality assurance officer at Albany Bakeries at just 22 years old.

“I followed biotechnology because I wanted to be a scientist and have an impact on the lives of other people, which is why I initially wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “As a quality assurer, I feel that I am making a difference in ensuring that the bread that people spend their hard earned money on is safe to eat and of the best quality.”

Kgopotso’s responsibilities include managing the food safety system and ensuring compliance with food manufacturing standards, taking environmental swabs for pathogen testing, and overall quality inspection.

Coming from a disadvantaged background, finding the money to fund her high school and tertiary education was a major challenge. Thankfully, she was able to attend Waverley Girls’ High with assistance from the Alexandra Education Committee, and went on to study biotechnology at the Vaal University of Technology with the help of a bursary through the Ignition Programme facilitated by Rays of Hope.

“I learnt a lot about myself and what I preferred in terms of making friends and having a balance in life. I also learned a lot of ways to study, so if I ever get tired of one study method I always had an alternative method,” says Kgopotso.

“We are also assigned mentors by the programme and that is one of the best parts of being an Ignition student, because you get to have someone to talk to, someone who will give you guidance. My mentor was Thato Lehlongwane, a project manager from a reputable education institute. From her, I drew the inspiration to look beyond being from the township, and what we viewed as unattainable is very much possible,” she continues.

Kgopotso says that a major highlight of her experience as an Ignition learner was “getting a second mother” in the form of Sarah van Zyl, project leader for Ignition, who provides learners with the support they need throughout their studies and work life. Having the opportunity to be guided and mentored by these dedicated individuals, says Kgopotso, was exactly what she needed to succeed.

“My plans for the future include getting a degree as I presently hold a diploma in Biotechnology. I also want to move towards supply chain management and see if that will perhaps move me a level up to becoming a quality manager then later a factory manager,” she concludes.

For more information on the Ignition programme, visit: http://raysofhope.co.za/ignition-programme