Three years into her Chemical Engineering degree, Ms Linet Kimathi, knew she had made the wrong career choice. Believing in never giving up, she found herself in the field of commerce. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Economics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in April.
‘I started off as a chemical engineering student, but three years in, I decided that it wasn’t a suitable career path for me. It was very difficult. I wasn’t enjoying the degree and I felt like I was struggling through my academics for a future that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in the first place.
‘So, after much difficulty, I made the decision to quit engineering. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after but I eventually found myself in the commerce department at UKZN in 2014, starting my first year all over again,’ said the Mandela Rhodes scholar.
Armed with her Honours degree, Kimathi hopes to positively impact the lives of marginalised people, especially those in rural areas. She hopes to encourage people to think bigger, become change agents and problem solvers.
‘A lot of people think economics is about finance and profit margins of companies. While that is a substantial part of the field, there is also a huge part of economics that deals with understanding the things that impact human beings and society and how that is intertwined with the economy.
‘Issues like unemployment, literacy rates, income inequalities, sustainable development and even the natural environment are studied under development economics and other branches of economics. It can help us better understand the systems that people face, and how those systems either help them prosper or create challenges for them,’ she said.
While her Honours year was challenging, it was a “worthwhile experience” said Kimathi. Her time management skills improved and she learned how to be productive with a limited amount of time.
‘My Honours qualification helped me understand the aspects that affect the economy, how government policy and resource allocation can be used to promote economic growth, and how socio-economic issues can affect the economy and vice versa. I can now apply these things to the environmental context and become the best environmental economist that I can be.’
Kimathi is currently studying towards a master of science in Environment Economics at the University of Pretoria focusing on water and society. She has encouraged other students never to let failure discourage them, but push them to work even harder.
‘Sometimes, we tend to think that failure is the end of the world and that it has no place in our lives. Yet, we learn the most important lessons when we fail and we get the opportunity to work towards success again.
‘I would like to encourage people to not be afraid to fail, to be honest with themselves and ask themselves tough questions in order to make tough decisions. I would also like to encourage people to not be afraid of starting over and owning their truths.’
Words: Xoliswa Zulu