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Chemistry’s Monyai is a ray of light

- Tshiamo Moloko

Create space for dreams and wellbeing so that impactful work can happen.

Mokgaetji Monyai, Wits Covid-19 Hero and Senior Technician, School of Chemistry

Meet Mokgaetji Monyai, a Senior Technician working at the School of Chemistry, and your Wits Covid-19 hero.

Monyai is known for being calm and resilient. Her experience in managing an environmental laboratory and assisting both internal and external researchers had taught her to always expect and prepare for the unexpected. However, Covid-19 brought new challenges to her workplace, teaching her a few lessons along the way.

According to her nominators from the Environmental Analytical Chemistry Research Group, Monyai was instrumental in implementing the health and safety protocols for all of the School’s labs, an impressive feat, especially considering the large size of the postgraduate student group working in the labs. In order to keep the number of people allowed in the lab at one time limited, Monyai came up with a roster system, as a way to efficiently rotate students, so that they could all get a fair and equal amount of time, something that greatly eased the tension from already stressed postgraduate students.

Her work went as far as risking her own health by continuously going onto campus to ensure that all Covid-19 protocols were adhered to, a risk that paid off considering no Covid-19 infection has been experienced among the chemistry postgraduate students as yet.

 Not only is she hardworking, but she is selfless too.

“When I got into this field, specifically at Wits, I made a pact that it will never be about me but the students,” says Monyai, who joined four-years ago. “So, to be recognised for the work that I do, especially during the pandemic is an absolute privilege that makes my work more fulfilling.”

Monyai was also the trusted first point of contact for many staff members at the School. When key lab equipment broke down, she made sure to contact equipment providers to repair them as quickly as possible so that student’s work could run as smoothly as possible.

Whenever a problem would appear, Monyai would happily come to the rescue.

One has to wonder what keeps this organised, diligent and selfless woman going at a time like this. Her answer – she keeps motivated by simply doing what she loves.

“I am working in a field that I am dearly passionate about and also work with people who make my job extremely enjoyable because of the support that I am getting,” Monyai says. “We all motivate each other to soldier on and have hope that Covid-19 will come to an end. Covid-19 was and still is a testament that we can fight this together.”

She also finds motivation in mentoring others and learning new and creative ways to improve things. One of the most important lessons that she has learnt since the onset of Covid-19 is to prioritise her mental health and try to make positives out of a negative situation.

“There is always light at the end of the tunnel,” Monyai explains. “It is important to take breaks and spend so much time with family and friends because Covid-19 has taught us that life is really short.

The unassuming Monyai is testament that, sometimes, it is the little things that make a big difference, especially during unprecedented times. The people that choose to try and improve the situation slightly, are often times the reason that everyday life keeps functioning.

About Wits Covid-19 Heroes

The Wits Heroes Series celebrates staff and students who went beyond the call of duty at the onset of Covid-19 in 2020. Wits Heroes were nominated by members of the Wits community. Discover other Heroes.