Miss Nolwazi Pinkie Madlala, a disabled clinical psychology Master’s student on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, won the special Presidential Award at the inaugural South African Youth Awards held recently at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg. 

In addition to winning the most sought-after award at the ceremony, Madlala also claimed the top prize in the Extraordinary Champions category.

Hosted by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the Youth Awards are the first ever national awards to recognise the outstanding achievements of young South Africans.

With a central theme “Against All Odds,” NYDA CEO Dr Steven Ngubeni said: ‘With the SA Youth Awards we seek to provide a platform to showcase the exceptional work and contribution that young people are making in their communities and to the world and tell inspiring stories of young people who make extra ordinary achievements despite odds and the challenges.’

A total of 1018 nominations were received for the awards which were divided into eight different categories including: academic excellence; arts and entertainment; entrepreneurship; extra-ordinary champions; health and wellbeing; science and technology; social cohesion; and the environment. 

Madlala, who stood out from the rest of the competition across all eight categories, was described by the NYDA as an inspiration to others ‘to soar beyond the sky’.

Nominated for the awards by a fellow psychology student, Madlala said she was totally overwhelmed and excited when she heard she had won the top award. ‘My first reaction was “Wow” and one of disbelief…I was not prepared for it,’ she said.

Madlala grew up in Mpophomeni near Howick in the KZN Midlands.  In 1998 she was involved in a car accident which left her disabled and confined to a wheel-chair.  

Despite the many challenges, Madlala registered for a Social Science degree at UKZN in 2006 and attained a bachelors and honours degree.  She is currently completing her Masters internship as a clinical psychologist at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.  She plans to finish her thesis by the end of the year and will start her year’s community service in 2013. 

Madlala walked away with R50 00 for winning the Extraordinary Champions category and R100 000 for the Presidential award, including an Educor-sponsored bursary valued at R100 000 for 3 years’ of study at Damelin.  She also received a BlackBerry smart phone which was given to each category winner.

Madlala plans to spend her winnings on a new, lighter and more advanced wheelchair which will make her more productive and enable her to better access the workplace.