“The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been non-conformists.” — Martin Luther King




Stellenbosch University

Nyeleti Precious Mabaso, is a speech-language pathologist who is working towards her master’s at Stellenbosch University. She joined a white-dominated profession with the vision of bringing inclusivity and innovation to it. Nyeleti, 23, advocates for the inclusivity of African epistemology and the development of indigenous language-assessment tests for black people in South Africa. As part of this, she participated in Stellenbosch University’s transformation phase to include indigenous languages on campus. Nyeleti’s groundbreaking research focused on adapting the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives to Tshivenḓa. This saw her being invited as a speaker by the test developers at ZAS Linguistics in Berlin, Germany, in 2021. She is a recipient of the AB Clemons Award for the best research project in South Africa, given by the South African Speech Language and Hearing Association, and was awarded a scholarship by the National Research Foundation to pilot this study on bilingual Tshivenḓa-English-speaking children. She is a volunteer researcher and clinical expert at The Early Care Foundation, helping to manage children with special needs, and pioneered an early childhood intervention programme that helped over 200 neonates and children at Themba Hospital in Mpumalanga. “Do not despair! You are running a marathon, enjoy the journey, and you will reap the rewards at the end,” is the advice she would give her younger self.

  • BSpeech, Language and Hearing Therapy, Stellenbosch University
  • Master’s in Speech Language Pathology (in progress), Stellenbosch University

  • Delegate of World Health Organisation (Simulation Conference), Bangkok, Thailand, 2019 
  • Culture award for adapting a diagnostic test (Multilingual Assessment Instrument of Narratives) to Tshivenda, Stellenbosch University, 2020 
  • Guest speaker on adapting indigenous diagnostic tests at Text & Tea, Litmus Main in Berlin, Germany, 2021 
  • One of seven recipients of National AB Clemons Prize for best research project by South African Speech, Language and Hearing Association, 2021 
  • Tshivenda diagnostic test published by ZAS, Linguistics (https://main.leibniz-zas.de/) in Berlin, Germany, 2021 Pioneered an early childhood intervention programme that impacted 100 neonates and 121 children at Themba Hospital in Mpumalanga. They now have access to health throughout life, as well as access to social grants and education, 2022 
  • National Research Foundation scholarship recipient to pilot the diagnostic test to 60 Tshivenda speaking children, 2023
  • Partnered with The Early Care Foundation As a volunteer researcher and clinical expert to help their early childhood development practitioners with managing children with special needs, 2023

In 2008, my mom sent me to an English medium school, I could not speak English, nor assimilate with peers and I opted to be defined by excellent work ethic, good sense of morality, and transformational leadership. That has been my brand ever since.

Do not despair! You are running a marathon, enjoy the journey, and you will reap the rewards at the end.

Seeing the South African national government (presidency) having appointed speech language pathologists specialising in early childhood development, indigenous test development, and paediatric research to partner with the department of education to eradicate functional illiteracy in school children. Presently, eight in 10 grade four students are illiterate therefore, education from grade R until grade four is problematic and inadequate. Children must be engaged in thought-provoking extra-curricular activities and cognitive-linguistic tasks to sharpen their executive mental functions instead of the current model that uses early childhood development centres and foundation phase as babysitting centres where they participate in eating, sleeping, minimal play, and songs daily. I would love to see South Africa taking matters of quality basic education as a national priority because there are high chances of the country being a failed state as there won’t be sufficient skilled workers in the near future.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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