The Henley PGDip is so much more than a qualification

Jackson Tshabalala was working at the Leva Foundation when he was offered the opportunity to do his PGDip at Henley. He says it’s important to know your purpose before you start the programme or you’ll miss out on a lot of other value it can bring.

I’ve always had a keen interest in education – I studied industrial psychology at Nelson Mandela University, but needed a Master’s degree in order to practise. After an entrepreneurial venture that was unfortunately quite negatively affected by COVID, I found myself working at the Leva Foundation, where I had to do a significant amount of management – not only managing people, but managing the systems, too. The CEO at Leva, Ryan Le Roux, has an MBA from Henley Business School, and he asked me if I would be interested in studying further and obtaining a PGDip from Henley. I said, ‘Of course!’ And I was fortunate enough to receive funding for the diploma from Henley Business School through their MBAid programme. It gave me an amazing opportunity that has really changed and inspired me. I knew the PGDip would give me the relevant skills for the work I’m doing. A lot of people have great ideas, but once you’re a part of a business, you need management techniques, tactics and strategies in order to grow something really well. I found my PGDip to be great for my personal development and my professional development.


In my work, I engage with a lack of internet access in townships and rural schools almost daily. At Tangible Africa, one of the flagship projects of the Leva Foundation, we aim to teach learners to code without the use of computers. And because Henley’s assignments are all context-based – I mean, you’re doing assignments based on your own, real workplace – when my cohort and I did an action learning programme, I suggested that we work with the problem of internet access across particular areas of the country. That context-based quality made the work just that much more enriching. Our idea was to solve this issue using systems thinking, change management, and all available models we learned during the course – and they’re methods of problem-solving that I still use today, and that I could apply to my workplace right after I finished my PGDip because I’d effectively used them at work before!


I found that PGDip helped me to practically design systems and strategies on how we tackle certain challenges related to a lack of internet access. Understanding the systemic challenges facing schools in areas that lack internet was beneficial to my understanding of the broader context of the work we do. Incidentally, we also underwent a significant expansion last year, which meant I needed to hone and enhance my management skills – and I think that’s where Henley helped, largely because of the assignments we received, which were all based on our actual work.


Coming from a family on the low-income spectrum of things – being able to offer opportunities for immediate family and people at large is something I am incredibly proud of. I was able to provide my sister, who recently matriculated, with an internship because of my work. Another achievement I feel I can boast about is that I pitched our project, Tangible Africa, at the African Union Innovating Education in Africa 2022 – we came second out of fifteen finalists. Additionally, I see the recognition from the Mail & Guardian as one of the 200 Young South Africans as an acknowledgement of what I have achieved during my work. And an encouragement of what I am still capable of.


I believe business education is the key to combatting so many social ills, and it can help us shift the narrative that Africa is a place always looking for aid, waiting for help. We don’t always have to do things the way they’ve been done in the developed world. We can come up with our own solutions to our own problems – and we can be self-sustaining.


The challenges to doing to business in Africa are well-documented – red tape, corruption, state capture, greylisting – and they all cause investors to lose confidence in putting their money into Africa and South Africa in particular. We have a talent crisis, too. People are pursuing opportunities abroad – but we need our talent. It can multiply the impact of your business – but it needs to be upskilled, educated and paid well. Then, the adoption of digitization is not occurring at the rate it should be in African businesses – we’re still using old methodologies, we’re not open to discussing how we can start using AI in our processes or additional models and frameworks that are suited for the 4th Industrial Revolution.


We should not keep the seed in our pocket or eat the seed because we don’t want anyone else to have it. We need to plant it, grow the forest. There is currently a major lack of good leadership in Africa. Our leaders need integrity, sympathy, empathy for others, a willingness to give rather than take, honesty, discipline and patience. These are things business education teaches you. It tells you: “I provide value and I get value in return.” We need this kind of foresight and investment into the future. Our leaders have an idea that they have only a short amount of time in which to get as much self-wealth as possible in this little window. But that’s short-term thinking: you’re supposed to be considering that your name will live longer than you will, and know that the contributions you make today you might never see in your lifetime – they’re for future generations.


If I could give one piece of advice to anyone embarking on the PGDip it’s to know your purpose. If you do, the experience is far more enriching. If you’re simply doing it for the qualification, you’ll miss out on a lot of other value it can bring. Of course, it’s great to have a certificate because there’s certain conversations you don’t need to have to prove your competency – the qualification acts as a key. If you’re looking for a job, it improves your chances of getting one; if you’re running a business, it helps you to find ways to improve your systems. And if you want personal development? It broadens your perspective and structures your thinking. And one of the best parts, I think, is that you meet great people. We had great conversations with lecturers who are industry experts in their departments – not just academics. And people in my own Henley PGDip class were senior managers running their own businesses in specific industries, too. It was so inspiring to sit beside them and hear their stories of how they were really building worthwhile, effective businesses in – and solutions for – our continent, Africa.

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