Change the world


Students from around South Africa flooded Nelson Mandela University with applications for the first year MBChB class of 50 students.

Those selected, now at the end of their ground-breaking year, have encouraging messages for the new MBChB recruits of 2022.

You can expect sophisticated facilities, up-to-date technology, a small but diverse class, helpful staff and top-notch training say the current crop of ground-breaking doctors-in-training, they say.

“The experience that you will get is basically world class: there are doctors from all over the world in the hospitals that you’re going to be training in,” said class rep Qasim Osman, 18, who matriculated in Polokwane, Limpopo, in 2020.

Like many medical school hopefuls, Osman applied at several South African universities as demand generally far outstrips supply for placement.

‘Amazing labs’

“When I looked into the programme the small class size and new facilities were appealing – we have amazing labs, and this is also a good city to live and study in.”

There were 5,652 applications for 2022, and the university has provisionally accepted 80 students. Most of the 2021 Mandela Uni MBChB class matriculated in 2020, and were drawn from schools in Quintiles 1-3.

“I was so scared and frustrated that I might not be able to go to study in 2021. When I got the call, I was so happy,” said Botshabelo matriculant Tshepo Mpelo, 20, who had feared the impact of Covid-19 would delay academic admission.

Gqeberha matriculant Anita Ellary, 18, is loving being a pioneer of Mandela Uni’s new medical school.

“It’s amazing! There was obviously a lot of anxiety hearing that so many applicants were vying for so few spots, but my acceptance affirmed that the hard work I put in at school paid off,” she said.

“There was a lot of newness and uncharted waters. However, all the lecturers have been extremely approachable and willing to help.”

Classmate Matthew Harrison agreed, saying he was enjoying the “enthusiasm and warmth of all the staff and lecturers”. He also said he had been learning “just how important empathy and being a good communicator is in healthcare”.

“It’s been fantastic overall, and a lot of fun, but oftentimes daunting with all the responsibilities placed on you, especially academic,” said the 19-year-old from Kimberley in the Northern Cape

‘The chance I’ve been waiting for’

A few students could not fulfil their dream of becoming a doctor immediately after school.  Potsiso Pako, 27, for example, studied pharmacy before applying at Mandela Uni in 2020.

“It’s been a long journey to finally do medicine now and I am overwhelmed with emotions to know that I actually made it from more than 5,500 applications,” the student from Mpumalanga said.

“This is the chance I’ve been waiting for, for a long time.

“It’s been hard to transition to being a full-time first year student again, but our campus has good facilities and great lecture halls, and it’s a good learning environment.

“I’ve made new friends, and having physical interactions with our lecturers has helped me a lot as they’ve been supportive.”

Kwa-Zulu Natal born Yasteel Nandlal, 19, started a BPharm at Mandela Uni in 2020 before switching to medicine in 2021.

“I am extremely grateful and consider myself very lucky that I was chosen to be part of this medical school,” he said.

‘So much support’

Others commented on the extensive academic programme.

“The workload is quite heavy but everything is interesting to learn. Our lecturers are approachable and want us to succeed; they’re dedicated to helping us as much as possible and communicate this clearly,” Botha said.

“There’s so much support, we have great systems to facilitate online learning and it’s very special to be part of the first cohort.”

Many said they were challenged academically by the rigorously accredited medical school curriculum.

Osman agreed the course was intense, “you have to study every day if you want to get through everything – doctors need to know a lot!”

Smaller classes did help, however, said Ellary, and also contributed to “close-knit bonds, both as medical students and as friends”.

“At the beginning it was very challenging because all I knew was medicine is the most challenging degree and for me to survive, I need to work very hard,” said Zamokuhle Ngema.

“However, they make failing impossible because the resources at labs and in lecture rooms are amazing and make work very easy.”

‘I want to make a difference’

The 20-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal said the most important lesson was to take care of her own mental health. “I learnt that mental health and giving myself a break is important as studying – without that, I have no purpose in what I do, and what I will be in future as a doctor,” she said.

Megan Venter, 19, of Gqeberha, said she enjoyed the diversity of her class, making new friends, and also valued the chance to meet members of the community around the campus.

“I really learnt that I want to make a difference in people’s lives. My heart felt so warm after our visit to Missionvale Care Centre, and now I have a strong feeling that I'm just one step away to my lifetime goal of being a doctor,” Venter said.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057