More careers awareness outreach drives, particularly in black communities are needed so the youth know about all opportunities at their disposal.
This is according to Veterinarian Dr Zandile Mbonxa who said that there were not a lot of black vets in the country.
She said it was a matter that underlines the importance of having more career awareness outreach drives, particularly in black communities.
Mbonxa said the field offers many opportunities and that those who qualify as Vets could venture into private clinical practice, welfare, government or state work, pharmaceuticals and research.
“I was raised by a single and wheelchair bound lady, who inspired me and played a huge role in my social and academic success. Despite her disability, she was able to put food on the table for us and cater to all our basic needs.
“It was through this life experience that I learnt that nothing is impossible in life, and that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to,” according to Mbonxa who was born and raised in Orange Farm in the south of Johannesburg.
While attending high school at Leshata Secondary School, Mbonxa discovered her love for science.
She worked hard to ensure that she obtains good grades, if her dream of pursuing medicine was to become a reality.
In 2011, she went to a career awareness campaign, hosted by the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
At the time, the DAFF was also looking to fund learners interested in studying for careers linked to the department.
She nevertheless applied for a bursary advertised by the department.
“I wanted to study human medicine, but I needed financial assistance, so I went for it and applied for the bursary. Luckily, I was chosen for funding and I chose Veterinary Science because it was the closest thing to human medicine,” she says.
Clinching the bursary, the ball was set in motion for her to study Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria.
While she was excited to get the bursary, Mbonxa admits that the thought of living away from her family, in an unknown city, was terrifying.
“The biggest challenge was adapting to living alone, the self-discipline [involved in] getting things done by myself, and being taught in English in a large lecture hall was just strange.”
While having graduated in April 2020, Mbonxa says coursework was no walk in the park.
“It was very hectic and the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with really. Vet school takes blood, sweat and tears to complete the degree in record time,” says the 25-year-old.
First year of the course entailed basic Science and Math modules. The second year focused on Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Animal Science and animal behaviour.
The course also involved students working on small animals like dogs and cats, small livestock such as goats and sheep, horses, pigs and poultry.
She advised anyone who would like to become a Veterinarian, to have good interpersonal skills owing to the fact that a Vet interacts with a variety of people.
Describing her career as a noble profession, Mbonxa loves being part of a team of people who are contributing to food safety, public health and the prevention of potentially dangerous Zoonotic diseases.
Clinical work entails diagnosis and treatment of conditions, surgery, research, herd health, farm management, disease prevention, animal welfare, public health as well as import and export control among others.
“One needs patience, and the intellect to get to the correct diagnosis. Remember our patients cannot talk and say what is wrong,” she said.
Asked about what was most misunderstood about animals, Mbonxa said people often think that animals don’t have feelings or that they get sick, feel pain or that they can take anything thrown at them.
“That makes me sick. I feared animals because I had no knowledge of them. Through knowledge, I learnt that they are the most adorable creatures, so I know now that there’s nothing that knowledge doesn’t solve,” she said
She hopes to one day own several veterinary practices in townships as a way to lend a hand in animal health and welfare awareness.
She also wants to inspire “young black girls like me from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.”