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Change the world

19/04/2024

When Algoa FM Breakfast Show presenter Lee Duru was capped with a BA Honours in Corporate Communications (cum laude) at Nelson Mandela University this week, it did not feel like a solo walk across the stage.

 

“This achievement is not mine alone: it’s the culmination of unwavering support and encouragement from an entire village,” said the new postgraduate PR and communication specialist.

For a start, Lee’s radio colleagues Wayne Hart, Charlton Tobias and Cornelius Poisat, “stood by me during moments of puffy-eyed, early morning exhaustion”.

So too did her family, including her mother Aqeelah, “reminding me that I was never alone in this journey”.

And Lee particularly loved studying with her 15-year-old daughter Elah at her side.

“We often found ourselves sitting at the dining room table together, especially when we wrote our final exams – her preparing for her Grade 8 exams while I tackled my honours,” said Lee.

“The closeness of this shared experience, with Elah witnessing first-hand my dedication to learning, was truly special.

“She saw me navigating through assignments, conducting research for my treatise, and dedicating myself to studying.

“I last registered for my undergrad in 1997 so I can only hope this was a positive example for her, showing the importance of perseverance, commitment, and lifelong learning.”

Then there was her husband Lesego Mkhwanazi, a fellow Nelson Mandela University alumnus who was a major support system for Lee and kept the wheels turning.

Lesego,a classically trained opera singer, is now the Head of Music and Culture at Woodridge College in Gqeberha.

Lee started her studies at the University, then the PE Technikon, 27 years ago but confesses she was not a diligent student.

“Deep down I knew that I had the potential to achieve far more than I did previously,” she said. “The desire to push past my limits and excel became a personal challenge.

“However, it wasn’t just about reclaiming my own sense of accomplishment.

“Staying up to date with new technologies and emerging trends is vital. It’s all about adapting, keeping skills sharp and staying relevant.

“Returning to academia was a clear step to achieve these aspirations.

“Studying at Nelson Mandela University has been an incredibly enriching experience that has already benefitted both my career and personal life.”

The multi-faceted professional has worked in various corporate roles. Today, in addition to the Breakfast Show, she consults in PR, marketing and communications, and tutors a “Writing for Media” module at Nelson Mandela University.

Lee’s voice and face also are familiar from numerous movies and television shows, behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera.

Film roles include Adventures in Zambezia (2012) sharing credits with the likes of Samuel L Jackson and Jeff Goldblum. She also starred in television’s Recipes for Love and Murder in 2021 and was interviewed in the New York Times for her role in the series.

Now, at the age of 45, getting a postgraduate degree gives her an immense sense of pride. “Returning to academia after so many years, while juggling the demands of being a working mother and wife, was not easy,” said Lee.

As she says, it is a “testament to the belief that it’s never too late to pursue one's dreams”. “Although initially daunting, being surrounded by younger classmates proved to be incredibly energising.

“And while everyone was super-supportive of one another, I must mention Danielle Munnick and Kaylan Hendricks. We formed a study group and their support and friendship played a significant role in my academic journey.”

Engagement is a key pillar at Nelson Mandela University and, said Lee, “beyond the classroom, I've had the privilege of collaborating with the University on various projects, which has further deepened my sense of connection to the community”.

Receiving her degree cum laude (with honours) “is truly the cherry on top”.

“It's an acknowledgment of the dedication and hard work I've poured into my studies and the best reward for the late nights and sacrifices made to balance family, work and my studies.”

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