/ 5 October 2022

MBA and postgraduate studies

Merle Kock and Khavitha Singh at the 2022 relaunch of the Amekh Group, founded in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and still going from strength to strength. Both women hold MBA degrees that they believe have contributed to their success.

The MBA: Aligning passion and purpose

Two years ago, amid a global pandemic that was devastating South Africa and the world, Merle Kock and Khavitha Singh made a decision that did not make sense to many people around them. In a time when established and reputable businesses were being forced to close their doors, they launched a consulting firm, offering advisory services and training and development to corporate clients. Today,  as counterintuitive as their leap of faith sounded at the time, that business has grown from strength to strength – so much so that the two women recently relaunched their expanded service offerings under the banner of the Amekh Group. 

The Amekh group is an organisation that focuses on developing leadership capability and capacity, specifically within the operations excellence, quality management systems and sustainability space. It provides four pillars, namely advisory, development and sustainability, with the manufacturing/making pillar being launched in the new year. 

Singh says she spent many years in different organisations representing different industries, but mainly in the manufacturing supply chain and healthcare environments. She recognises that leaders across all organisations and at all levels of management are overwhelmed, siloed and often spend most of their energy on firefighting and crisis management scenarios. “The company was started with a vision of how we can make a meaningful impact to leaders within the continent and within our country, particularly servicing the manufacturing environment and the supply chain environments that we have extensive experience in,” Singh explains. They quickly realised, however, that their offerings were transferable and in high demand by a number of other industries.

Both Kock and Singh attribute a large part of their success to the fact that they both completed MBA degrees, which has equipped them to align passion and purpose with a sound business intent, and in doing so empower and uplift others to do the same. 

Their tagline is “Enabling Excellence” and that is what they aspire to do. “We don’t take that lightly,” Kock says. “Apart from the fact that we drive excellence and have years of expertise, we stay current, agile and flexible. Our passion and commitment shines through in the services we offer.” 

The founders of the Amekh Group both have technical qualifications, and at varying points in their career reached a point where they hit a professional ceiling: the skills they had were no longer enough. This inspired them respectively to pursue business qualifications. “I needed more to really propel my creativity, allow me to add more value and deliver impact in a more meaningful way,” Singh explains. 

She was a senior manager in what she describes as a very typical role, focusing on operations management and continuous improvement: “From a professional perspective, the MBA allowed me to extend my experience and knowledge with subjects such as accounting, economics and finance that are not traditionally taught during the completion of a science degree. It exposed me to knowledge and information that I was not accustomed to. It also expanded my perspective about the industry I was working in, which was a pharmaceutical and healthcare context.” 

More than that, she says it allowed her to engage at a much more senior level and provided her with a solid foundation on which she could build and grow and think in a much broader, integrated business manner.

Kock agrees that her own MBA studies shaped how she engages with the world around her: “It enabled me to think holistically, and when you think holistically then the big picture emerges; you can take off your blinkers, but still know when the situation calls for the singular focus of a deep dive.” 

She says her training honed existing skills and sparked the birth of new ones, assisting her to lead a big team, make tough decisions and display the financial skills required to manage a department budget and its expenses. “Most importantly, however, the MBA taught me to reflect and recognise the blind spots within myself.” 

The personal development and self-mastery elements of the MBA programme were also what stood out for Singh: “It focused on really challenging our schools of thought, it challenged traditional views of things and the social conditioning we have, and challenged us to unlearn and relearn and unlearn again … and one of the things I learnt to look at was leadership as a self element, rather than an externally integrated skill.” 

Despite studying in different cohorts, both Singh and Kock left with a newfound confidence and a focused intent on how they wanted to contribute to the world around them from a socio-economic and career perspective, allowing them to align passion and purpose from a leadership perspective.

As a woman, Singh says the MBA provided her with a set of skills and experiences that allow her to engage with power and presence in the boardroom and speak from a competitive space, despite often still being the minority within that space. “There are also specific classes on inclusion and representation and why that matters,” she says. “The creation of these spaces can indirectly provide a confidence boost by giving people permission to show up and be their authentic self, even if they are in the minority.” 

Kock echoes this: “We are all different leaders, we all have different personalities, and that is not just tied to gender — some of us are introverts, some are extroverts, some speak while others don’t. We need to create spaces where we can come with our differences and rise to become the best leaders that we can be.” 

 Singh says the MBA classroom is a microcosm of the corporate world and company boardrooms, where only 24% of senior management roles are occupied by women. It is a good environment to practice in, and Kock says they are now paying these skills forward and creating spaces where women can explore their authentic leadership styles and engage with business without having to mask or camouflage who they really are, or minimise what they bring to the table. “Unfortunately no qualification exists that automatically opens doors or shatters glass ceilings,” Kock says. “However, as a woman of colour who lacked self-confidence at the start of my career, continuous learning helped me find my voice, stand up and be noted.” 
— Jamaine Krige


Between the devil and the digital sea: Doing an online or in-person MBA

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most sought-after degrees for those who aspire to the C-suite or see themselves occupying a seat at the boardroom table. The availability of online MBA programmes has paved the way for professionals to return to their studies while still maintaining their career. And while this is undoubtedly a convenient way to get a qualification, prospective students often grapple with the question of whether an online MBA can really challenge an in-person MBA education, and whether prospective employers will attach as much weight to remote learning as they would to the more traditional in-person education. 

It’s undeniable that there are benefits to pursuing either. Online offers increased flexibility in learning and offers students more control over their own schedules, while students completing a full-time or on-site programme often have access to more personalised coursework, stronger engagement with their faculty and the opportunity to take full advantage of internships, networking and other career resources. Prospective students should take these pros and cons into consideration when deciding on the pathway to further learning. 

Let’s get digital

As the world went into lockdown in 2020, forcing the closure of schools and universities globally, the online space quickly came to dominate as the learning and teaching space of choice. Virtual classrooms replaced brick-and-mortar buildings, and e-learning became the norm. But while the Covid-19 pandemic certainly accelerated the mainstreaming of online learning, research has shown that the popularity of online education has been on a steady increase for the past decade. 

It’s no surprise that business schools sat up and took notice. Here was an opportunity to increase accessibility for students who might not otherwise enrol by offering a programme that is self-paced, with greater freedom and flexibility — qualities that have undeniable appeal to working professionals, who were previously often forced to make a choice between their jobs and their studies. 

Ash Soni, executive associate dean of academic programmes at Indiana University’s Bloomington Kelley School of Business, a United States institution that offers both an on-site and online MBA, says: “Online students want to advance within their industry — perhaps into management roles at their current company. The students who are interested in our in-residence programmes generally tend to be career switchers. They’ve been doing other things or they may be working in business, but are looking to do something different. For example, they may be in operations but are looking to go into brand management or banking.”

Other benefits of an online qualification include the fact that these programmes are cheaper to run, and therefore tend to cost less to do. Some of the downsides to pursuing a digital MBA include the loss of networking opportunities and limited in-person connection. One also needs high-speed internet, a reliable power supply and access to a personal computer, which means that while the course fees may be less, the start-up costs might be high. 


The traditional in-person MBA degree has its own benefits and disadvantages to keep in mind. Educators and experts agree that the biggest advantage of sharing a physical classroom with like-minded students is networking. The formal, scheduled approach to learning that in-person classes offer is also often of more benefit to students who prefer more structure, stability and accountability. 

Another benefit of an in-person approach is the work-integrated learning that takes place, and its associated opportunities. Many online programmes do not require practical work as part of their course completion criteria. The full-time MBA courses also offer students more opportunity to customise their experience to better suit their needs. 

Students pursuing their education in-person can also expect a higher starting salary than those who choose the online route — at least in the US. A recent survey of graduates from the University of Florida found that the average reported salary increase for graduates of the full-time programme was 128%, while students who completed the online equivalent reported increases of just 14%. 

Though there are many wonderful opportunities to be had during a full-time MBA course, there are still some downsides. These include the lack of flexibility and of demographic diversity. The costs associated with a full-time course, as well as the cost of sustaining oneself while studying — rent, bills and responsibilities do not just disappear — can also be an obstacle unless the student has planned ahead and has vigorous support systems in place. 


While an online education was previously viewed as inferior to in-person, classroom-based programmes, business and education experts agree that this is changing. With the mainstreaming of digital learning, many institutions now offer online courses that rival traditional training. The choice between the two depends on student needs and preferences, as well as the resources available to them. 

The decision should also be based on student goals, and what they hope to achieve. Younger students looking for an opportunity to network and customise their learning experience to their desired career trajectory would benefit from sharing a physical classroom with their peers, educators and industry experts. Working professionals who want to climb the ranks within their current organisation and cannot afford to take the time off to study should definitely consider the online options available at reputable, accredited business schools. — Wessel Krige

Advice for aspiring executives

What is the one thing you wish you had known before you decided to further your studies and pursue an executive education? What one lesson can you share with prospective students to help them on their learning journey? This is what some industry experts and MBA graduates had to say: 

Nashreen Arnachellam – MBA Graduate, Head of Business Development, Managing Director

I failed the first MBA exam I wrote; I retook the exam and got a distinction. Getting back on the horse takes time and resilience. If you’re doing this, you need to keep your head in the game and don’t doubt your own abilities. The credibility and knowledge hosted in this qualification has accelerated my career and has given me the confidence to strive towards a clear purpose and career path. My advice to achieve this success is to be humble, be grateful, be respectful to all, surround yourself with people who inspire you and always stay true to what you believe. Honesty, integrity and authenticity make up the backbone of a nation on a journey to recovery and transformation.

Michele Sohn – Founder of Confluence Digital Research, Strategic Advisor

My MBA experience changed me and the way I engage with the world. It consolidated my knowledge and reassured me that many of the decisions that I’d intuitively come to were right on track. Understanding why people make decisions (and how to nudge them to better outcomes) is fascinating. I’m now tired of helping companies sell things that people don’t really need — and more interested in helping companies and consumers align to create a kinder kind of capitalism — where profit and purpose meet around shared prosperity.

Yorika Kesari – MBA Student, Client Success Manager

At first, I tried to research and study by myself to enhance my lectures and specialised materials for recall later. I was drowning with the workload and felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t until I started networking with fellow colleagues that we began to close the knowledge gap and build on each other’s experiences. Fortunately, we are team-oriented, keeping each other organised, focused, and motivated. Above all, we keep each other sane.

Mariapaola McGurk – MBA Graduate, Entrepreneur

Going back to study anything is very challenging. It took me two-and-a-half years to complete my MBA, and it was only when I graduated that I realised how burnt out I was. It takes a toll being a wife, being a mother to three small children, being an entrepreneur and doing an MBA. But I don’t think that is something I would have wanted to know beforehand, because it might have stopped me from doing it! Sometimes you’ve just got to step into the dark and push through despite not knowing what is on the other side. Just follow your gut, do what you think is right and see what the outcome is. 


Become a master of networking

Before actually signing up, I wish I’d known just how important the networking aspect is,” says Mudiwa Gavaza. “What makes an MBA an MBA is the type of people that you get to interact with, in your specific business school.”

The 32-year-old did his MBA at Rhodes University and has gone on to make his mark in the world of business journalism. He writes for Business Day and Financial Mail and is a radio host and producer at the Wits Radio Academy. 

Journalist Mudiwa Gavaza completed his MBA at Rhodes University

He says that some of the actual coursework of an MBA from any prestigious institution could technically be consumed and understood by someone outside of the course, but the core value of getting the qualification is the professional and personal connections made along the way. 

This not only includes the managers, executives and business owners one might study with, but the staff of the business school. For instance, Gavaza was taught by Professor Mervyn King SC, the former Constitutional Court judge who penned a widely used set of guidelines. Gavaza asks: “Who better to teach about governance than the person who actually wrote the code of governance himself?”

Gavaza explains that the MBA has helped him with networking and his professional life long after graduation, particularly as someone who frequently reports on companies and economies, and speaks to executives who have also had postgraduate education. 

“As you interact with people within especially corporate spheres, you’re looked at a little bit differently when you do have the MBA designation, and also, at the same time, I think it helps you to think about business within the big picture context.” 

He says that the MBA not only gives him legitimacy as a journalist, it has also prepared him well to understand complex concepts that he needs to communicate to the public.

Postgrad, or work experience first? 

While the benefits of Gavaza’s MBA are clear, in some ways he went against the common advice of entering the working world before returning for his postgraduate education. The university allowed him the opportunity to go from his fourth-year Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management straight into a full-time MBA. 

This meant doing several courses concurrently, followed by research and a thesis, which all ran in total over two years. It also brought him into the career world a little later than some of his peers, but Gavaza stands by his choice. “Looking back, I don’t regret it, because now you do see a lot of people trying to make that decision, and I’m glad that I did it at the time that I did.”

Gavaza did not miss out, because he worked as the deputy station manager of Rhodes Music Radio during his studies, and based his MBA research upon that organisation. The research has since been published and presented at forums, and he is contributing to a book about the evolution of radio. 

“When I was doing the degree, I definitely saw the value, because having an organisational background within which to frame how you think about business is important,” he says. “It’s one thing to think about business in an abstract way, but quite another to think about it in a practical way.”

Tips for prospective MBA students

Gavaza consolidates this value that the MBA has given him into three main pieces of advice for others who are considering doing a similar course in order to gain that competitive edge. He makes it clear that completing such a degree requires considerable enthusiasm and initiative. 

Firstly, regardless of one’s field of work or business, one has to be highly competent. He explains that a bachelor’s degree in commerce often gives you a generalised grounding, but specialising in a particular field and gaining strong sector knowledge can be key. 

The second piece of the puzzle comes from the networking aspect that he sees as crucial to the process. While Gavaza knows that it might seem unfair, he has found that knowing someone or making them notice you can be key. “This is because opportunities don’t come out of the ether, they come from people. If you can get the right people to notice you, there’s a higher chance of getting opportunities and those competitive edges.”

Lastly, Gavaza says “when you are competent and know the right people, you must be able to execute”. He says that in the end, while a degree might greatly prepare a graduate for the work, each individual still has to step up to the opportunities presented to them. “Having an MBA is not something that guarantees your ability to execute — that’s all on you.”

Gavaza clearly has a long, successful road ahead in his career. He is living out his own advice by not only having the academic and relational grounding of an MBA, but smartly leveraging this to bring value to his networks. — Elna Schütz


Let motivations and objectives guide your decision-making

A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) is a valuable degree to have, but those who wish to climb the career ladder cannot solely rely on a once-off qualification if they hope to climb the career ladder; aspiring business leaders must embody a spirit of lifelong learning if they hope to stay relevant. This is according to Khani Marivate, one of South Africa’s top recruiters and the founder and managing director of transformative acquisition and employment service agency Think-Career.  

Founder and MD of Think-Career, Khani Marivate.

The world of work is changing fast, she says: “Executive development is so critical, now more than ever, especially when it comes to strategic thinking, leadership and people. These are skills that have to be refreshed every so often, especially as leaders encounter newer generations entering the workforce. How we were led by bosses wayback-when is not necessarily going to work today on the new members who join your team.” 

Marivate sits on the board of the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations (APSO) and represents the private employment sector on the National Skills Authority (NSA) board. She maintains that executive education that fosters personal and professional development remains one of the best investments that a person can make in themselves. 

When hiring, she says companies are looking for candidates who can step up and lead effectively, who can think strategically and with foresight, and who are able to make quick decisions in a sound and informed manner. But even that might not be enough. “Companies are looking for individuals who are committed to the development of the people around them, and who have great communication skills,” she adds. 

When scouting potential postgraduate qualifications, Marivate says prospective students should be on the lookout for programmes that can aid their development in these critical areas. “Business schools should be fostering these skill sets, including fundamental tech skills, to prepare their graduates for the workplace of the future and the workplace of today.” 

MBA degrees and other postgraduate business qualifications have immense value and play a role in developing industry leaders, but, like everything else in life, timing matters: “Completing the qualification will certainly bring depth and insight, but that must be supported by experience to ensure credibility. That’s why I would recommend these types of qualifications from a middle-management level and above, or for entrepreneurs. Timing is everything, because what is the use of having a prestigious MBA degree but not being able to apply the knowledge?” 

She says when deciding on a qualification, especially as a mid-career professional, candidates should critically evaluate their motivations and their objectives. “I believe that learning should complement the learner and be an enabler to help them achieve the career trajectory that they aspire to, but also an enabler to enjoy the role that they are in while mapping out their path for future development,” she says. “The piece of paper that signifies you have completed a programme is a destination; learning and true development is a journey that never ends.” 

This, she says, is one of the most important things to remember before re-entering the academic space: “Consider what value you will derive from it, how it will benefit or enable your career goals, how it contributes to life-long learning and how it will ensure that you remain relevant and maintain the staying power in the game. An MBA alone is not going to land you your next promotion — it will be your skills, experience and character that do that.” 

When questioned as to whether recruiters hold online qualifications in the same esteem as in-person training, Marivate shrugs. “Personally, I think online education is a lot more challenging than learning in a physical classroom,” she says. “The most important thing is to look at the course content and choose progammes based on the skills that will be gained; companies are looking for employees who can add value to their operations.”  — Jamaine Krige


From prison to business school 

We often hear stories about rags to riches, but Welcome Witbooi’s story follows a slightly different trajectory: the 39-year old from Valhalla Park on the Cape Flats joined the 28s gang at the age of 17 after being found guilty of attempted murder, and quickly rose through the ranks to become the highest ranking member of one of the most feared gangs in Pollsmoor, considered one of the toughest prisons in the world. But this is not where his story ends. 

Today, Witbooi is the founder and director of the BrightSpark Foundation SA, an NPO established as a beacon to inspire change, remove barriers that separate people and restore hope. He says it is geared towards and operates from a place of love, complete transparency, and passion. The organisation works with at-risk youth from communities affected by gang violence, substance abuse and poverty. 

Welcome Witbooi, founder and director of the BrightSpark Foundation SA, which helps youth from communities affected by gang violence, substance abuse and poverty.

He is currently working towards an MBA at Henley Business School, but as with most things in his life, is not following the traditional route. For many professionals, getting an MBA seems like the next logical step to advancing their career, but Witbooi only considered this after being offered the opportunity to do an Association of Change Management Professionals qualification (ACMP). “This is an advanced certificate in management practice, and I’m currently busy with my ADMP, which is an Advanced Diploma In Management Practice,” he explains. 

His journey is a testament to the many roads that lead to a single destination. In a time where it feels like opportunities are few and far between, Witbooi knows it is important to showcase success stories from people who did not follow the traditional route. 

He says the ACMP serves as an independent and trusted source of professional excellence, and advocates to create a thriving change community. The ADMP seeks to enable high-performing practitioners who are regularly promoted without the relevant background in managing systems or leading others, and is designed for experienced professionals wanting to progress their business acumen and personal mastery. 

Witbooi wouldn’t have it any other way: “From an educational perspective, I believe it’s much better than studying a standard degree at a regular university. Because I’m running the charity foundation, this has been a great opportunity for me to explore how I can implement some kind of business dynamics to the organisation, and see whether it would be feasible or more impactful to run BrightSpark as a business.” 

He takes pride in the skills he gained and is currently putting to use to create better campaigns, stronger relationships and better communication practices, and in the knowledge of what financials should look like and what will be needed to fulfil the goals of his NPO. “I’m still trying to adapt what I’m learning into the NPO space,” he says. “But I can already see it working wonders.” 

Witbooi has now set his sights on attaining his MBA, which he believes will empower him and the aspirations of the BrightSpark Foundation SA — a foundation that aims to offer young people the opportunities that he never had. Near the end of his prison sentence, he decided not only to further his education and redirect his life, but also to lift as he rises and offer that same opportunity to young people in communities like the one he grew up in. 

He says his studies help him on the road to self-mastery and self-betterment: “The reason why I’m doing these courses is because of where I come from – from street gangs to prison gangs to stepping away from that lifestyle and putting my life back together in the right way. This learning approach is great because I’m now able to learn many other things about my character, and about the youth upliftment work that I do.” 

And his enrollment and efforts towards an MBA make for a promising future. Professionals who graduate with an MBA will learn business fundamentals such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking and analytical skills that help build leadership skills, including networking, student conferences, and advanced student projects. In Witbooi’s case, he hopes this qualification will contribute towards the skills and knowledge to build his life and cement his journey, from a life of crime to one with a focus on nation building and community enrichment. 

He looks forward to expanding the work of the BrightSpark Foundation SA through his newfound skills, and he knows the impact of his learning will not stop with him, but will ripple outwards to benefit the communities he works in, and the country as a whole. — Kofi Zwana


Money matters 

The thought of returning to an academic space after years of being part of the workforce is one that can conjure a significant amount of anxiety. The first and perhaps most daunting challenge is the cost, not only of the course but also of sustaining oneself as a full-time student again. 

Tertiary education does not come cheap. A 2021 study by investment and banking group Old Mutual found that a year of university studies comes with an average price tag of around R65 000, and that is expected to rise to R107 600 by 2025 and skyrocket to a lofty R165 600 by 2030. This still pales in comparison to the cost of a postgraduate qualification from a business school. As of 2022, an MBA degree from a reputable institution costs anything from R150 000 to R5 000 000! Some institutions also prescribe compulsory international field trips that can add a couple of thousand rands more to the final bill.  

Compared to their international counterparts, however, South Africa’s MBAs are well-priced. A first-year student at either Stanford Business School or Harvard can expect to pay at least R2-million to attend classes and live on campus — and that’s just for their first year of studies. 

Fortunately, a number of options exist for those who are considering the switch between a full-time job and a return to studying. Loans, bursaries, and other funding options are just some of the ways that prospective students can help sustain themselves while furthering their education. Capitec Bank states that combining financial aid with personal budgeting plans can also help lessen the financial burden of returning to academia by a significant amount. 

Financial aid

Students have choices when it comes to deciding how to fund their academic endeavors. According to education finance provider FundiConnect, the most popular funding methods are study loans, scholarships, grants and bursaries. 

In its official information pack for student funding, the Department of Higher Education and Training explains that scholarships are merit-based awards for above-average academic achievements, and usually only cover a portion of the tuition fees on the condition that certain criteria are met and that achievement is maintained. 

Bursaries, on the other hand, are academic sponsorships that cover the full cost of studying, including tuition, study materials, accommodation and sometimes even a stipend for living expenses. The recipient of the bursary is not required to pay the money back directly, but may be required to work for the company that footed their study bill for a determined period of time. Bursaries can be granted on the basis of financial need, or on the basis of academic or other achievements. 

While there is a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries that exist for graduate studies, funding opportunities for older students and postgraduate qualifications are more commonly offered by special interest groups such as associations, foundations, religious groups or niche industry players, and are often much more focused and specific in their requirements and criteria. 

Many companies also offer bursaries to employees who want to return to school. This according to Ian Hurst, who is the Managing Director of Paymaster People Solutions. In South Africa, a company may contribute up to R20 000 per year to its employees’ children’s education too. A maximum of R20 000 per individual may be off-set as a tax free benefit to the employee, he writes. 

According to Hurst, most companies require that the prospective student pass all of their classes or modules, or risk forfeiting the bursary payment and having to repay the money. Employees who earn less than R600 000 per year are eligible for company bursaries that can provide up to R60 000 towards a university qualification. 

Finally, there is the option of securing a bank loan or student loan through a registered financial institution. Students will be expected to repay the money borrowed. Student loans specifically cater to tertiary education needs: tuition, study materials and living expenses. Under the website’s Frequently Asked Questions section, Nedbank clarifies that student loans are not just for school leavers: “There are no age limits. You can apply for a student loan for as long as you qualify to attend a full-time or part-time programme at an accredited institution.” 

According to Capitec Bank, a bank loan might be ideal for prospective students who want to complete short courses that do not meet the criteria for a study loan. Prospective students can make use of the online loan calculator from FundiConnect to help them calculate the costs and connect with relevant funding opportunities.

Personal Budgeting

While there are plenty of options for returning adult students to finance their new academic ventures, it is also important for them to adjust their budgets to account for the new expenses and loss of income when returning to full-time study. For the prospective student determined to resume studying, it pays to plan ahead financially. This should include a detailed financial review that captures everything from monthly debit orders to small day-to-day costs. 

A lifestyle audit might also come in handy to see where the fat can be trimmed. The required changes might be bigger than just cutting on restaurant meals; for some, it may mean moving to a smaller home, or even relocating to a town where the cost of living and of education is lower than in the metro hubs. 

Another way to mitigate the impact of emergency expenses like medical bills is to prioritise healthcare and healthy living long before the first day back in the class. Prioritise annual check-ups and routine procedures before giving up a job that offers benefits like medical scheme membership or health insurance. Go to the dentist, schedule an eye test and visit the dermatologist while still enjoying health cover. Studies have found that maintaining consistent medical insurance coverage can be one of the toughest challenges for returning students. 

Education is an investment that can seem daunting and scary at times, especially for individuals who have established careers and settled into a comfortable work rhythm and structure. However, this does not need to stand in the way of embarking on the next leg of the journey to lifelong learning. By looking into financial support and working smarter with available resources, it is possible to pursue a postgraduate qualification and expand horizons — and to do all this without breaking the bank. 
— Wessel Krige

Why are business schools so expensive?

An MBA is considered among the most prestigious qualifications, but it’s also expensive. In South Africa, this degree will set you back between R150 000 and R500 000 — and that’s just the tuition costs! Factor in accommodation, living costs, extra-curricular activities, international class trips and the expense of taking time out of the workforce to pursue a full-time qualification, and the final cost is far steeper than it may first appear. 

So — why does the MBA cost so much? 

Expert faculty 

When it comes to the expertise on offer during the MBA training, it becomes clear that you get what you pay for. Leading business schools invest in expert faculty, and this is perhaps the single biggest contributor to the high cost of an executive management education. The educators who lead top programmes are often considered “pracademics” who have extensive industry experience to back up their strong academic credentials. 

Institutional resources

Most MBA programmes provide students with on-campus resources such as technology hubs and innovation labs. The physical space for lectures, tutorials and group work can also be expensive, especially considering that many business schools aim to position themselves in upmarket areas or business hubs, where real estate does not come cheap. 

Extra activities

The MBA experience extends far beyond the reach of the classroom. Some tuition fees include the cost of international business trips, real-world consulting projects, networking events, career fairs, workshops and coaching, while other educational institutions come in at a much lower initial cost on tuition, but bill separately for the extra-curricular activities and out-of-classroom experiences. — Jamaine Krige


South Africa’s next Big 5

Practical skills, certifications and qualifications are not enough to survive the future of work; what is needed are foundational skills, or soft skills. These skills characterise a person’s relationship to the social environment. The good news is that, like other practical competencies, they can be developed. They cannot, however, be replaced by machines – this makes them invaluable in a world where jobs are becoming increasingly automated. This according to Mark Levy, Founder of South Africa’s recently launched educational eLearning platform, Playbox. 

He says these days, companies are seeking out “The Big 5” in terms of soft skill acquisition among leaders and team players. These include collaboration, empathy, optimism, adaptability and, perhaps the softest on the list, but arguably the most impactful, is grace. 

In 2017, consultancy firm Deloitte reported that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030”, something that talent acquisition firms and recruiters will confirm: hiring employees with soft skills is necessary and goes a long way to improving teams, building culture and boosting overall company performance. 

“It’s becoming more and more vital to hire for skills that can’t be taught in school but rather acquired through character building and life experience,” Levy explains. The new platform provides an affordable, one-of-a-kind, all-access-pass to South Africa’s greatest icons-turned-coaches — who share not only the how-to’s of their respective crafts but also the softer skills that helped to escalate their careers to legendary status.

Levy says the South African Greats series is a tribute to learning the ropes through the trials and successes of amazing South Africans, adding that Playbox comfortably covers The Big 5 Soft Skills list through its meaningful storytelling and knowledge transfer techniques. According to Levy and the Playbox team, these are: 


They say teamwork makes the dreamwork and, speaking to leaders in any field, nothing could ring more true. Being able to collaborate and contribute as a team player goes a long way to furthering your career. In her Playbox, teaching Collective Leadership, one of Africa’s top 100 most reputable Marketing Leaders and industry players, Santie Botha, advocates for collaboration as one of the Big 5’s most coveted skill sets. “As a leader, you have to be a team player,” says Botha, “it’s about long-term thinking, implementation with intent, collaboration and compassion.’’    


No stranger to the human-centric workforce, empathy takes its place as one of the key players in charismatic leadership around the world. Prevalent in notable presidential statesmen, namely the late Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, Winston Churchill and Eva Perón, leaders today are sounding the call for empathy more and more to the world’s captains of industry, in an attempt to reinstate a certain human essence into the workplace. In a deeper study on empathy, Harvard Business Review has demonstrated that empathetic companies undoubtedly outperform their more dismissive counterparts by at least 20%. Playbox Coach Joey Rasdien says empathy is one of the prevailing soft tools to comedic success, and self-development. “When you understand how to use empathy, it becomes your superpower,” says Rasdien, reinforcing the notion that empathy is a skill to focus on among traditional qualification subsets.     


There is a misconception that optimism is something you’re born with, but in fact it takes a certain kind of nerve and resilience to attain optimism, and sustain it; it’s the kind of skill textbooks can’t teach you, but arguably, a Playbox coach can. Learning to be optimistic in the face of adversity is one of life’s toughest lessons, and a hard nut to crack in business. Ask critically acclaimed chef Mogau Seshoene, aka The Lazy Makoti: in her Playbox, The Lazy Makoti shares the publishing trials of her very first cookbook and how she began believing in her own “yes”. This led her to publishing the number one cookbook in South Africa, with over 34 000 copies sold and a fan following of over 600 000 in the short space of just three years. “The experience definitely made me stronger, more determined, and less likely to take a no; and it’s gifted me with confidence and self-belief,” says Seshoene.      


A certain type of resilience goes hand-in-hand in growing one’s career and having the confidence to not only adapt with your changing landscape, but also to back yourself, no matter the challenge. Ryan Sandes, world-renowned ultra-trail runner and South Africa’s golden boy as the first to win an ultra-trail on all seven continents, teaches the power of adaptability on and off the trail. “Life happens fast. It’s unpredictable, fast-paced, and changing all the time,” says Sandes, “it’s how you choose to adapt to your climate, landscape and all the odds, that will make the difference and push you to make it out there.”


It’s almost as underrated as it is invisible, yet soft skills like grace in the workplace are key to succeeding in your career as well as in your life. Yvonne Chaka Chaka teaches the art of grace in your music career in her Playbox. “For me, grace begins with learning the art of ‘Sawubona, unjani?’”, says Chaka Chaka. “’Unjani’ is one of my favourite South African words. It’s our African greeting that means ‘How are you?’ Am I ever too famous to stop asking that question? No. Am I ever too busy to forget to ask ‘How are you?’ No. If you want to be successful, be human first,” says Chaka Chaka, “you need to see yourself in others, and others need to see themselves in you. That is grace.” — Jamaine Krige

Feminine leadership forges the way of the new economy

The world as we know it is changing, and it’s changing fast. Today, collaboration trumps competition, and gone are the days where power over people works any kind of wonder. With job satisfaction as an essential microcosm of society-at-large, it is clear that a new culture of work and modus operandi has emerged.

“Line managers and their teams are seeking so much more than just target-driven portfolios these days,” says Kerry Morris, CEO of recruitment agency The Tower Group. “The skills required to thrive in today’s work-age are now including softer skills with a deeper impact on job satisfaction like empathy, communication, inclusiveness and collaboration. All of which come, by default, more naturally to the fairer sex,” says Morris.  

As a result, feminine leadership is forging the way of the new economy, and, increasingly, more and more leaders cross-industries, cross-countries and cross-gender are not only taking notes but also starting to embrace a 360-degree style of leadership that is proving to be more effective, more powerful and more necessary than ever before.

There are more women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies than at any other time in history — 33 out of 500. While stats such as these paint a sombre picture and large-scale inequality still exists in pay checks as well as in the proportion of male-to-female leaders in the global workforce, when it comes to the multiple advantages that feminine leadership capabilities bring to businesses as well as to a company’s bottom line, the lipstick is on the wall.

Morris says there are four key feminine leadership skills that every leader — female, male or nonbinary — should readily adopt as part of a well-blended management strategy. These are empathy, collaboration, vulnerability and inclusiveness. “At the end of the (work) day, feminine leadership belongs to all of us. It is a state of being that recognises and understands that we are here to connect, to learn, to share and to evolve; and to lead as humans first,” says Morris.