As new legislation to check the rise of qualification fraud in South Africa takes effect, Henley Business School Africa is playing its part to...
It takes a village to raise an MBA
Ever since she scored the highest marks in matric at her school in rural Limpopo in far northern South Africa, Vongani Masondo has always been an achiever. Now the Lead Legal Counsel for Legislation and Financial Sector Law at the South African Reserve Bank, she reflects on how her MBA journey at Henley Business School Africa has helped her on her way and how she hopes to use the knowledge she’s gained to serve the country and help others run their companies better.
Growing up in the village of Ka-Xikundu near Punda Maria gate (Kruger National Park) in the remote Limpopo Province of South Africa, meant that Vongani Masondo spent the first few years of school walking for kilometres to get to school and learning under a tree in the open air. When it rained, she and her fellow learners would find shelter with older children in higher grades who had a classroom. While there may not have been much in terms of resources and material wealth, Vongani remembers her childhood as being very happy years.
“We may not have had transport to school, but we had a community in which all children were your friends and all adults were your parents. Everywhere was safe to play and there was enough food to eat. The village perspective was all we had and it was so much, it illustrated the principle of ubuntu, where I am because you are,” recalls Vongani.
Interestingly enough, she says studying at Henley Business School Africa was in many ways similar as there was the same sense of community and shared support.
“When I studied with Henley, I saw again that it takes a village to achieve something, in my case, the MBA,” she laughs, describing how she and fellow students were divided into learning teams who worked together on class activities, as well as supporting and motivating each other with assignments and exams.
She had decided to enrol for the MBA, even though she already had three law degrees and an excellent position as Lead Legal Counsel for Legislation and Financial Sector Law at the South African Reserve Bank, because she felt there were limits to her knowledge of how businesses are run and managed particularly from a financial perspective. “I generally wanted to improve my knowledge of business as well as build on my leadership skills. I wanted to have the confidence to deal with any organisation or corporation and be in a position to understand all aspects of those businesses.”
Enrolling for an MBA in 2019, her studies were briefly interrupted when her father died less than two months after she’d begun, so she ended up being in the May 2020 cohort that was affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns. It was, at times, a struggle, admits Vongani. But perseverance and the support from her fellow students as well as the Henley lecturers and staff, and her family, and the cheering of her close friends, saw her eventually pass with distinction.
“What I have learned, is that it is impossible to do the MBA alone,” says Vongani. “Being in a team and all of us supporting each other was vital.”
She remembers really battling during one of the last modules and how a Henley staff member went out of their way to offer her personal encouragement and advice, motivating her to keep going. Other aspects of the course that stood out for her, were the personal development sessions on self-awareness and personal growth, which she found challenging but ultimately life changing.
“It wasn’t easy in the beginning,” she admits. “Having to look at your weaknesses and being vulnerable is something we usually go out of our way to avoid, but honestly looking at yourself in this way is the gateway to personal development and real change in you as a person.”
Travelling to the UK to be capped and accept her certificate of graduation with distinction was one of her proudest moments, “a dream come true”, she says.
Vongani wants to use her MBA not only in her work at the Reserve Bank, but also in her work on boards and committees, where she feels her confidence and expertise has improved significantly, enabling her to have a more meaningful impact.
“The MBA opened my eyes to so many aspects of business and I know what to look for now and what the big areas of risk are,” says Vongani, who is concerned about the lack of skills and qualifications at public entities especially.
“Without the right qualifications, skills and knowledge, there can’t be good governance at public and private companies,” says Vongani. “I want to use the knowledge I have now gained to also serve the country and help others run their companies better.”
She says her recent travels to the UK made her realise there was no country as beautiful as South Africa. “We have so much here, friendly people and wonderful food and we are truly blessed with the weather and so much more. What we need as South Africans, is a change of mindset and to encourage better leadership to protect and grow what we already have.”