Nishana Wilson is an educator by profession, which allows her to touch young lives every day. It has also given her the platform to get involved in community projects, such as a Food Drive, which provides learners with a meal to take home, and a Sanitary Product Drive. Her trademark Afro speaks to another passion of hers – breaking down beauty stereotypes. Here we get to know the inspirational young woman who decided at an early age to live a life that makes an impact on other people’s lives.
Nishana embodies the maxim that the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. She knew loss early in life when her single mother, who raised her, succumbed to cancer. “My mother emphasized the importance of education and respecting others” – values that have since inspired her to excel. “Emulating my big brother’s example, I’ve always pushed myself to be academically excellent. My results earned me scholarships and bursary opportunities – from high school until postgraduate level.”
Nishana’s grandmother is the other strong woman in her life. “She made me into who I am today. She taught me the power of prayer and persistence even in the hardest of times. She also taught me to be kind to others and to always be the bigger person.” Another woman who played a crucial role in Nishana’s life is her former Science teacher and “self-adopted mother”, Michelle van den Nieuwenhof, who ignited her passion for Science and teaching. “Michelle’s heart for her community and how she puts everyone’s needs before her own inspires me to do the same.”
Her love for Science prompted Nishana to study to earn a BSc in Biochemistry and Genetics, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. She explains, “While I was tutoring high schoolers during my BSc degree, I realised that I don’t only enjoy Science, but also interacting with young people. I had to find a way to intertwine these two passions, and teaching made the most sense. Most kids ‘hate’ Science because they view it as difficult. I really wanted to play a role in changing this perspective by showing them that it’s actually not that hard.” Today Nishana teaches Science at Tsosoletso High School. When she speaks about “the kids” she beams. “Waking up every day knowing there’s at least one youngster whose life I’m going to touch, through a smile, an encouraging word, a joke, or sometimes even a little reprimanding keeps the passion for my profession burning.”
Nishana firmly believes that “teaching is a work of the heart. The profession in itself is a form of community service as you give so much of yourself and your time to the kids, even outside of the classroom.” Many of her learners come from difficult backgrounds where poverty is rife.
“Some of these young girls often cannot afford sanitary products and toiletries. I’m involved in sanitary product drives for our school to ensure that girls do not miss school because they can’t afford sanitary towels.” Nishana’s grandmother was the one who taught her, “You can’t receive blessings if your hands are closed”. She grew up seeing her grandmother feed the poor and elderly in the community of Brentpark in Kroonstad. “On Christmas Day, she would make chicken curry and rice for the less fortunate and elderly people who lived in our street. In winter, she would make them soup on Saturdays. She may not ever have told me that it’s important to help others, but she has always shown me.”
Apart from Nishana’s firm belief in helping where you are, with what you have, she is also a natural hair enthusiast. In her disarming way, Nishana declares, “My Afro belongs on the cover of a magazine, on a runaway, and even in the boardroom”. For her, “It’s liberating to love yourself exactly as God intended you to be and not try to fit into someone else’s standards of beauty”. This has also led her to be a brand ambassador for a local natural hair care brand, Glolooks, as well as Crown Me Naturally SA, a platform that educates people about natural hair care and encourages people to accept beauty in all its diverse forms.
And, plans for the future? Her smile broadens, “I hope to be an academic in the not too distant future… Professor N.C.R. Wilson, heading a STEM Education Department or doing some revamping of the South African curriculum to be more inclusive of these disciplines”. She says women are still underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. “I’m currently pursuing an Honours degree in STEM Education, with specialisation in Science Education. Women should stop limiting themselves and insert themselves in spaces where they weren’t allowed before.”
Before she goes, I must ask how she felt on hearing that she was Get It’s Cover Search Winner. “I’m honestly a liker of things, so I’ve always wanted to be on the cover of a magazine.
The Cover Search was one with a beautiful twist! It was focused more on finding a woman who influences her community positively, rather than just a pretty face. This was a special cause and I decided to give it a go.” She adds, “There are so many women whose good works go unrecognised, and although I know that’s not the motive behind charity work, it‘s necessary to celebrate the unsung heroes of our communities”. Nishana admits to still pinching herself about the win “considering the calibre of the other women who were finalists. To say I felt inspired when I met all the other finalists would be putting it lightly.”
Five fast facts about Nishana:
– Nishana enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, especially baking. She is always handing out food and drinks, and she’s the chatterbox telling stories and cracking jokes.
– She loves taking naps… every chance she gets.
– Nishana suffers from an eye condition called Keratoconus (Google it, please), which led to her having a corneal transplant.
– She’s actually a tomboy – don’t let the shiny dresses fool you!
– Nishana would like to be remembered as the girl who always believed that her dreams were valid.