I met Lungelo on LinkedIn through her work in empowering more black women in the stream of science to take on the industry and make their mark. Here is our interview about her STEM journey;
Hi Lungelo, thank you for joining us today
Hi Winnie. Thank you for inviting me
What is your full name?
My name is Lungelo Dube
What do you do currently?
I am currently working as a Protected Areas Planning and Monitoring Intern, under the Directorate of Biodiversity and Conservation at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). In addition, I have recently completed my Master of Science (MSc. Environment and Society) at the University of Pretoria, with a specialization in human-carnivore conflict between private land owners and African wild dogs in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
Please walk us through your STEM journey
I am a vibrant, young lady who is passionate about science and the environment. I grew up in a township called Esikhawini, which is located near the North coast of KwaZulu-Natal. I’m an only child to a single mother who is a teacher by profession.
I went to Empangeni Preparatory Primary school, before joining Empangeni High school where I completed my secondary education. I joined the University of Pretoria, Mamelodi campus, for a BSc Biology (4-year program). I later switched to BSc Physics in 2012 because I was interested in being a Geologist at the time. Still within my 4-year program, I moved to the main campus in 2013 to study BSc Geology. I unfortunately didn’t like this option too; I felt like it didn’t fit my personality and long term goals. So during my exams in November 2014, I switched again to BSc Geography. I chose this because of the course modules I had taken and my passion to become an Environmentalist.
The decision to be an Environmentalist came after working for the Career Graduate Office at the University of Pretoria in 2014 and interacting very closely with people from industry. I realised that the job market in Geology was very limited. I took time to research about careers expected to be of high significance from 2020 going forward. To my pleasant surprise, I found out that environmental careers will be of high importance due to the rise in climate change as well as Biodiversity and Conservation issues.
I looked at what I had completed and what I needed to acquire in order to qualify as an Environmentalist. I had a good chance to switch degrees from BSc Geology to BSc Geography, then do my final year and graduate with a BSc Geography degree. My plan was to complete the BSc Geography degree, enrol for a BSc (Hons) Environmental Science degree then later pursue an MSc in Environment Management, specializing in either climate change or Biodiversity and Conservation studies.
I successfully completed my BSc Geography degree in 2015 on record time for the 4-year program despite all the changes I had made during the course of my studies. I can attribute this to taking very calculated risks and working hard to meet my personal goals. Not only was I able to complete my degree on time, but also qualified to do an honours degree in Geography and Environmental Science in 2016. I completed my honours degree successfully and graduated in Autumn 2017.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a job in the Environmental industry, Geography or Geoinformation Systems (GIS) sector. Therefore, I started venturing in other dreams that I’ve always had. I applied for a masters degree as well as funding, but I also started going for acting and TV presenting auditions in 2017. I was lucky enough to be cast for two local movies (which eventually didn’t air on TV) and the TV presenting opportunities in 1KZNTV! The end of 2017 was a time in my life that showed me that anything is possible. At the peak of all the dreams coming into reality, I got accepted into the GreenMatter Fellowship Program at the beginning of February 2018. I also got admission into the masters program and had to start my master’s journey.
I was able to have an understanding with my producer for the TV shows that I’d shoot shows for Twenty1 issues and Sessions when in KwaZulu Natal, and have someone else do it when I’m not there. This lasted until the end of the season for the two shows.
In 2018 I was doing my masters (MSc Environment and Society) degree at the University of Pretoria full time. I was also volunteering and a fellow of few fellowships. I volunteered for the ‘African Capital Cities: Sustainability Forum ‘hosted at the CSIR (5-8 June 2018) and the ‘Tomorrow Leader’s Convention’ (11-13 September 2018). In this same year I, joined the Black Woman In Science (BWIS) fellowship, which has inspired me to empower more high school girls into STEM.
In 2019, I co-founded a climate change initiative called Afofresh Refresh. We have worked with 3 schools and a children’s home in Venda during Arbour week in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), and the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (VBR). I do work for Afofresh Refresh on a part time basis, during Arbour week. Unfortunately, COVID-19 slowed down the momentum in 2020 but we are hopeful that we can impact more schools going forward as we’ve adjusted to a world with Corona.
I recently started working at the Department of Forestries, Fishery and the Environment (DFFE) in September 2020. I am very grateful to finally be getting relevant work experience in my field of study because I’ve invested a good 7 years into it. I am now finally learning more about the sector on a professional level.
What have you found inspiring along this journey called life?
Life comes with a lot of ups and downs and nothing is ever cast on stone. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to or when you want them to. That’s why it’s important to be patient with yourself and life in general. Life has different seasons and sometimes you win but sometimes you don’t, and that’s okay. With that being said, there’s always a reason to be grateful and joy really does come in the morning, so don’t give up.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I enjoy TV presenting, acting and professional photography. In 2018 I joined 1KZNTV! on DStv channel 261 and had the privilege of being a TV presenter for a show called Twenty1 Issues. I also had the honour of presenting another TV show for 1KZNTV! called “Sessions”. The two TV shows focused on addressing issues faced by young people in their 20s. I had opportunities of inviting studio guests for interviews about the different issues. The show also interviewed young people on the street, just to get a unique perspective from a regular young person.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the shows when I got the amazing opportunity to pursue my master’s degree after being awarded a bursary by the GreenMatter Fellowship. The bursary awarded me funding for an ongoing African wild dog project that was running with the Endangered Wildlife Trust and I couldn’t turn down such an amazing opportunity. So, I left 1KZNTV! despite my producer offering me a third show to present.
Currently, I do professional photography just for fun and I post all my lovely pictures on my Instagram (@lungelo_dube) and Facebook accounts.
What are some of your achievements and awards?
For presenting celebrations; I was a top 20 finalist for the NSFAS presenter search (2019). I was also a TV presenter for a show called ‘Sessions’ on 1KZNtv! Channel 261 (2019) and another one called Twenty 1 issues on 1KZNtv! Channel 261 (2018).
I was a Unilever Africa Idea Trophy (UAIT) semi-finalist. I was chosen as part of the 36 semi-finalists out of 511 applicants for the CloseUp campaign in August 2016.
Culture Internal/ External HK (2012/ 2013). I was a House Committee member for Tuks Naledi Residence, University of Pretoria. I organized and led Serrie for 90 students in our residence in the year of 2013.
What is your favourite quote?
“What you wants exists, don’t settle until you get it” ~ Mel Robbins
What is your word of encouragement for a young girl in STEM?
You need to be flexible to change and learn to adapt quickly to situations as that will help you go further. Things won’t always go your way so you need to be flexible to the turbulence of it all.
Life requires you to have a plan, a vision and a purpose. It’s important to know exactly what you want. You also need to learn to never compromise on what you want for yourself because your happiness is very important. Learn to stick with your guns. Listen to your gut. Always put your best foot forward, do your best even when no one is watching, and learn to get it right the first time.
I can’t stress the importance of being patient enough. Always remember to work hard, consistently because slow and steady wins the race, so never give up.
Thank you very much Lungelo for sharing part of your story as inspiration for young girls out there. It’s been an honour for me to write about you. Please keep up the good work you do; Africa needs you. Thank you once again!