Freedom through education
The winner of SAICA’s Top 35-under-35 Game Changer award, Boitumelo Kuzwayo CA(SA), believes South Africa is in dire need of opportunities for our youth. ‘If things don’t change, we are potentially facing an Arab Spring.’ She is doing all she can to change this narrative with her students passing with a 90% average!
Boitumelo Kuzwayo (35)
Deputy Head of Department, Department of Commercial Accounting, University of Johannesburg
Although Boitumelo qualified to study at Wits University, her parents did not have the necessary funding. ‘My mother worked as a personal assistant to a director of the company. She found out that Deloitte was the auditing firm. She knew it was one of the Big Four. She then found out who the audit partner was. She bumped into him in a lift, told him my father and she didn’t have the funds to pay for my tertiary education, and recited my Maths and English results.’
And today Boitumelo is the deputy HOD of the Department of Commercial Accounting at the University of Johannesburg and responsible for the Teaching and Learning programme across 40 staff members that teach approximately 1 500 students across the qualification. She holds an MCom in International Accounting.
In addition, Boitumelo has contributed to providing previously disadvantaged students with access to quality education through a bursary programme and academic support.
These programmes have supported some 400 beneficiaries since 2018. The pass rate on both programmes has averaged 90% since their inception. The total budget for the programmes was R33,9 million and Boitumelo led a team of 95 individuals including lecturers, tutors and mentors.
She also runs a professional services company called Illimite Consulting
An unexpected journey
The audit partner, Tony Zoghby, suggested Boitumelo apply for a Deloitte bursary. ‘I will never forget him. I was awarded the bursary from the first year, and all I had to do was work hard and pass.’
Her journey was unexpected. ‘I thought I would remain at Deloitte and become a partner, but my path has been completely different. I joined UJ in 2015 and have grown in different ways through the people I have met and the roles I have worked in. We are a sum total of the decisions we made five, 10, or even 20 years ago. This is true for me.”
Let go of doubts and insecurity
Throughout her life, Boitumelo has been plagued by imposter syndrome. ‘At work, but also in life in general, I had insecurities about my abilities. However, the belief and affirmations that my parents, brother, grandparents, extended family, friends, and colleagues constantly instilled in me enabled me to take up space in places where either others didn’t believe I should have been there or where I thought I shouldn’t have been there.’
She also had to overcome her challenge of passing by surrounding herself with like-minded people. It is important to have people in your life who wants to achieve the same things as you do. That was a key factor in obtaining my qualification.’
Education is the key to meaningful change
Boitumelo is passionate about making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. ‘I try to achieve this through education where I work and also through exposure. By doing that, one student can take themselves, their families, and generations out of poverty both mentally and financially.’
In 2022, Boitumelo was named one of Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in the Education category, as well as Academic of the Year at ABASA’s annual Women Leading Conference and Awards.
She was also nominated by her head of department, the director of the school, and the executive dean of the college to participate in the Emerging Leaders Leadership Development Programme at UJ, focusing on the development of future leaders.
‘I feel incredibly honoured and humbled to have won SAICA’s Top-35 under-35 Game Changer category. Being selected as one of the 35 finalists was already victory for me, and this was the cherry on top,’ she smiles.
‘I think I won the Game Changer award because my work focuses on non-CA stream students, specifically students studying for a diploma in accounting.’
The Department of Commercial Accounting runs a programme for students who either apply for the Bachelor’s in Accounting Science (CA stream) or Bachelor’s of Commerce in Accounting (BCom). However, they unfortunately don’t qualify because they either don’t meet the minimum APS score or did Maths Literacy as a matric subject. Therefore, some of our students feel demotivated and discouraged because they aren’t doing their qualification of choice,’ she explains.
Always be a game changer
Through various leadership roles, Boitumelo has led her department in obtaining and retaining accreditation with various professional bodies over and above SAICA, including, amongst others, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). This has broadened their students’ options within the accounting profession.
Winning the Top-35 under-35 Game Changer category affirms to Boitumelo that she is doing something right and worthwhile. ‘Despite the doubt and imposter syndrome I sometimes go through. I think it also assures that I should continue doing meaningful work that impacts and changes students’ lives.’
She is also excited about the many exceptional individuals she has met through the process. ’I believe it will open doors that I never thought would open up that will positively enhance my career and take it to the next level.’
Boitumelo believes South Africa is in dire need of opportunities for our youth.
Her goal is to continue being a game changer. ‘Education, in any form, opens your mind to different possibilities. It doesn’t need to be formal; however, formal education is important. It can be in the form of apprenticeships or educating people on how to create wealth for themselves that will ultimately create jobs and industries in our country. I think our society needs, to some extent, to put more emphasis on vocational studies.’
Boitumelo’s reminder to young and aspiring CAs(SA) is: It is possible. ‘Be very intentional about the people you surround yourself with because they can either make or break you in the long run. That is key to progressing and succeeding on this journey and any journey one chooses to embark on. And don’t forget to pay it forward on your journey and once you have completed it, especially for African black youth.