Arriving in a foreign country where you know no one and with only a meagre R500 on you sounds like a horrifying big gamble. But incredible as it may sounds, this is the reality that Aune Angobe had to deal with when she first set her foot here in South Africa.
Miss Angobe was born and bred in a small village called Ongongo in the Omusati region northern Namibia. She was smothered with an abundance of love by her late grandparents who impressed upon her the significance of education. Indeed, she took her grandparents’ advice to heart and spent most of her childhood immersed in books.
Excellence in science
Throughout her primary schooling Miss Angobe excelled in science subjects and this saw her passing her Grade 12 with good grades. In 2013 she got admitted to study for an Honours degree in science (microbiology) at the University of Namibia, courtesy of government loan.
After completing her undergraduate studies in 2017, she took a break from her studies and got herself a job. But during this period she developed a strong yearning to further her studies. And so, in 2018 she decided to continue her education and started knocking at the doors of different universities. Luckily, for her, she received exciting news that she has been admitted by the UCT to study for MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology.
And in July this year she reached another milestone in July by graduating cum laude – achieving over 95% – with MSc Molecular and Cell Biology degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT). This is a remarkable achievement considering that she has never used a computer before doing her undergraduate studies back home at the University of Namibia.
Her biggest and major challenge, upon being admitted at UCT, was funding and accommodation. With only R500 in her possession, it was going to be impossible to find a place to stay. Thankfully her best friend, Paulina Naupu and her supervisor, Associate Professor Inga Hitzeroth were on hand. They immediately put her in touch with an “Aunt Vivien of the Cohen Scholarship Trust”, who founded a place for her to settle.
Why she chose microbiology
Miss Angobe says she chose microbiology because her “goal is to improve human or animal health using nature”. She says: “For decades, plants have been (and continue to be) the alternative to industrially produced, expensive diagnostics and vaccines. I hope to help move our society to a future with faster and easier production of large quantities of diagnostic or vaccine proteins that are safer to use and with significantly lower production costs.”
Contributors to the economy
Miss Angobe says the focus of her research is on “developing a plant‑made diagnostic reagent for the detection of porcine circovirus (PCV) antibodies in South African swine herds”. She decided to focus on pigs because they “are a main contributor to the economy, especially in Southern Africa”.
“For years, pork production has been facing significant losses because of PCV. My study aimed at producing a cheaper diagnostic reagent for use in a rapid diagnostic kit, which will potentially help local farmers to diagnose their pigs earlier,” she adds.
Strong support system
Miss Angobe says she is grateful for a strong support system she received from Biopharming Research Unit family particularly Naupu and Professor Hitzeroth. She says they all went out of their way to make her stay in the country particularly at the UCT enjoyable.
But she also believes her journey to South Africa, even though it was tough in the beginning, was nothing short of a destiny. “God did not bring me this far to leave me,” she says.
Her advice to students from outside the country and “who are going through the same experience is that persistence is key; and where there’s a will, there’s always a way. So don’t give up. And always believe in yourself and keep pushing, no matter the circumstances”, she adds.