Tafadzwa Tivaringe ‘Taphy’ embarks on a new journey

12 Aug 2016 - 11:45
Tafadzwa Tivaringe (left) with Associate Professor Suellen Shay, Dean of CHED


Tafadzwa Tivaringe, affectionately known as Taphy, has been a part of CHED for the past three years both as a Careers Services intern and Writing Centre Consultant. He now embarks on an exciting journey, having been offered a place at the University of Colorado, USA to start a PhD in an inter-disciplinary field, ‘Learning science and human development’. 

Taphy has always been known to be diligent and hardworking. Flying from Zimbabwe in 2010, Taphy started his undergraduate degree at UCT in 2011 with a triple major in Media and Writing, International Relations and Social Anthropology. He recalls having an ‘honest appetite for knowledge’, spending much time in the library and doing extra courses. He understood the value of education, especially after taking a gap year to work and finance his sister’s studies. In Zimbabwe, that was the time the economy was taking a nose dive. ‘Life was difficult,’ he remembers, and decided to now take full advantage of the opportunities ahead of him. It comes as no wonder that Taphy was soon to be on the Dean’s Merit List.

Thereafter, there were three turning points, which Taphy describes as shaping who he is today. The first was to meet Kathy Erasmus and applying for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) in 2012. Mellon Mays was looking for students interested in knowledge-making, and that resonated with him. In 2013, Taphy was accepted into the programme. He states, ‘I am a product of CHED’s equity development programme'. 

With this came the second turning point, his meeting with his MMUF Mentor, Dr Divine Fuh. Taphy realised that Dr Divine had had similar challenges and yet went on to do a PhD in Switzerland and come back to Cape Town to lecture at UCT. ‘It made it more tangible for me that this could happen,’ Taphy admitted. He was also influenced by his Mentor’s open door policy and teaching style. In June that year, he joined the six week long summer conference in USA at Williams College, Massachusetts. This is where he embarked on the MMUF ‘Youth political participation’ honours project, while still in his third year. In 2014, he enrolled for an honours at UCT in Development Studies under the supervision of Prof Jeremy Seekings. His Masters the following year was in the same field. Meanwhile, Dr Divine introduced him to scholars at the University of Colorado and City University, New York and he contributed to a UNESCO ‘Youth Organising’ project. 

This triggered the third turning point. Taphy reflected increasingly on the link between education, political movements and inequality, but he still felt there was a missing dot. ‘Beyond education, how are inequalities reproduced?’ That is where he developed a keen interest in the labour market. ‘I could see the positive possibilities enabled through education, but also the frustration when individuals’ expectations to find jobs on the labour market are not met’. During his internship in Careers Services, he interacted with recruiters to better understand the issue. He also worked as a Consultant at the Writing Centre during that time and a Volunteer in the 100Up project. ‘I see myself in them and can see how meaningful development programmes can be’. One of his students at the Writing Centre wrote, ‘I entered into the Writing Centre lost, insecure and drowning. I almost let myself be swallowed up by this overwhelming- yet surprisingly empowering- institution. But you, took my hand and led me to the shore’. 

In 2015, Taphy’s various experiences at the university prompted him to write a news article for News24 on ‘disaggregated pipes’ where he argued that UCT was not aligning equity development programmes in the most effective way to help with its transformation agenda. He explained, ‘UCT was doing something but needed to re-strategize and align pipes so that there is flow’. He gave the example of the support programmes on offer. ‘Bright students are identified at undergraduate level and given support, and later staff members are offered the opportunity to apply for the Mandela-Rhodes scholarship, but there needs to be more on offer in between’. He received comments for his bold statements, the Vice Chancellor visited him at Careers Services, inviting him to present his model at a high level meeting with the faculties.  

As Taphy embarks on the new journey, he would like to share a quote with other students, from a person who became a role model for him, Michelle Obama, who said, ‘The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them’. He adds, ‘You need to be willing to accept that you have something to contribute to the world’. Likewise, he acknowledges others’ contribution to his life, ‘There is no me without the people’.

Story by Aditi Hunma
Photos by Germaine Grammer