Umlazi-born Mr Siyanda Sikobi beamed with pride and joy when he graduated with an Honours degree cum laude in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Sikobi dedicated his degree to his family, especially his grandmother MaMlondo, who raised him and his siblings in the Ezakheleni informal settlement on her government grant.

Sikobi’s research tackled Political Communication: RSA Withdrawing from ICC (International Criminal Court). He sought to find out if South Africans knew about such decisions that were taken on their behalf.

‘I found reports in the media did not outline and did not clearly explain to ordinary South Africans what it meant to be a member of ICC, the steps taken and the reason behind South Africa exiting.

‘Those that can afford to pay for satellite television were able to gain some information about the ICC, but those that do not have money do not have access,’ explained Sikobi.

He thanked his family, friends, supervisors Dr Anusharani Sewchurran and Professor Jean-Philippe Wade and his grandmother for their support. ‘My grandmother has supported me in my studies. She assists me in every way she can and makes sure I know that she is very proud. My siblings, who are still in school, are very proud to have a brother that is in university. It’s rare in my community, and they look up to me. I also make sure they work hard at school.’

Sikobi described the condition of houses in his area as ‘very bad’. ‘We live in a metal house which is extremely hot in summer and very cold during winter. It makes it very difficult to study. Vehicles cannot reach my home because of the poor road conditions.’

He believes getting a degree opens doors for better job opportunities. ‘I want to help my community and my country and the world at large. I don’t plan on moving away from Ezakheleni, even when I become financially stable. I want to be a role model to young people.’

Sikobi, who is completing his Masters in Media and Cultural Studies, advised other students, ‘The future of our country depends on us, let us get our degrees and go out to help our communities. Let us continue research but also try and implement our findings.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo