St John’s D.S.G. Old Girl, Dr. Nokukhanya Dube (Class of 1999) is an introvert, who manages to convince the world at large that she is an extrovert. Known at school for her bubbly personality, as well as being genuinely caring and attentive to the needs of others, it was not surprising to us that after school, she pursued a career in the medical field.
Nokukhanya completed her undergraduate medical degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and then proceeded to complete her mandated internship and community service years in Pietermaritzburg and Empangeni, respectively. She was initially quite involved in her local church, even participating in some outreach charity missions to Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, however, as the demands of her work have increased, her church involvement has decreased to a proportional extent.
Nokukhanya currently lives in Durban with her partner (who she has been married to for 10 years) and their 6 year-old son. Nokukhanya says that becoming a mum in 2014 changed her world view and frame of reference significantly. “I became more aware of identity politics and our impact on the environment as a result, and this has shaped many decisions and life choices since then,” she says.
As an anaesthetist working at Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Nokukhanya has not lost her a sense of adventure and her love of exploring (which she says she inherited from her parents.) She therefore loves to travel and has many friends (and couches to surf) in numerous countries around the world. She says she is also keenly aware of the injustices and inequalities that still plague our country, and she tries to address those in her small corner as much as she can.
It was a pleasure to catch up with Dr Nokukhanya Dube for this month’s Heart-to-Heart. Take a look at what she says:
What did you love most about St John’s D.S.G?
I find this question particularly difficult, as I did not love school. It took me a long time to be able to get to a place of being able to even come back again. Let me try though…
I first arrived at St John’s D.S.G. as a timid 10 year-old. Everything was daunting. In retrospect, I appreciated having a small school. It is also something I hated, because those who were different, were ‘anomalies’. Something which I took for granted at the time, but have appreciated since, were the Chapel mornings and evenings. The liturgical rhythms helped to lay the foundation for my own spirituality.
I made some significant friendships. Those people helped to sustain me through the school journey, in various ways. Some still continue to impact my life, more than two decades later! I always felt different at school. I felt as though I didn’t fit in. I have only started to find the language to express this in the last decade or so.
What does success mean to you and how did St John’s D.S.G equip you for life after school?
Success is different subjectively and objectively. Subjectively, I try my best to ‘do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God’. I miss the mark often, but I get up and try again. Success, for me, is the trying. Which takes many forms and directions.
Objectively, it is what society expects of me. It is my mother ‘casually’ mentioning in various conversations that her daughter is a doctor. It is the privilege and social currency one gains as one attains or obtains certain ‘levels’ and prizes in this game of life.
Life at St John’s D.S.G. was, on one hand, quite insular and protected one from the realities of the world at large. On the other hand, the phenomena of race dynamics, identity politics, homophobia and other societal challenges were a reality even in that microcosmic society. I learnt to make myself fit the situation. I learnt to make myself acceptable. Consequently, comments about my accent are a microaggression I deal with quite often.
What advice do you have for our current girls and their families?
- a) Always be aware. Be aware of the privilege you hold, of the power dynamics at play, of the expectations in any given situation.
- b) Be kind to yourself. It is a fine balance between self-care and selfishness… just remember that you ‘cannot pour from an empty cup’.
- c) Lastly… Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. If you always choose kindness, you will rarely go wrong.