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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Adversity can be a chance to shine

FAR AWAY: Leon Njouakoua Tchonko took a selfie when he realised he probably wouldn’t make it back to Cape Town for graduation FAR AWAY: Leon Njouakoua Tchonko took a selfie when he realised he probably wouldn’t make it back to Cape Town for graduation

Léon Njouakoua Tchonko’s first question when he got the news was “but what does getting a summa cum laude mean?”

The 32-year-old is currently overseas and had received a message from his supervisor about his graduation status.

Once he heard the explanation that both supervisors gave him a more than a 75% pass mark he gave a little laugh.

Njouakoua Tchonko graduates with a MEng summa cum laude today with a thesis entitled Reconfigurable Photovoltaic Modules for robust nanosatellite power systems.

Explaining his study path the Cameroonian explains how difficult it was as a student to navigate the rules and regulations of CPUT while the Fees Must Fall campaign was disrupting the campus.

He registered for the MEng programme in 2016 but living off-campus made it difficult to complete his proposal by the end of that year because he had no access to the internet or a computer at home.

“Completing my MEng degree in less than two years was my goal even when strikes, shutdowns and holidays were part of that allotted time. Thus, I did what I had to do to graduate in April 2018.”

He says a big deal of the credit for him not only turning in a Masters thesis but passing so well should go to his supervisor Dr Atanda Raji, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Electronic and Computer Engineering, who was more like a father to him than just a teacher.

“He would encourage me to keep my head up. Sometimes he would go the extra mile and use his own resources for my benefit. For instance, his house was my study area during the university shut down.

He assisted me with bills related to my proofreading and other components of my research programme. Even though I was a University Research Fund Beneficiary the processing delays meant there was no mercy, even when I had submitted all my paperwork on time or in advance. This is not the work of a supervisor.

“He has an open door policy and always listens to his students. He attends to their matters with fast and effective responses, no matter the situation,” Njouakoua Tchonko explains.
The testing of his prototype involved various trials with a high rate of failure but constant communication with Raji kept him searching for a solution and he eventually got the project working at 4 am one morning.

“Moral support, good communication with the supervisor, frequent meetings with progress reports and feedback, those are the keys to success,” he said.

Njouakoua Tchonko calls Acting Dean of Engineering, Prof Mellet Moll, his advocate and also gave a shout-out to F’SATI director Prof Robert van Zyl. 

While his thesis research was about how a package of solar cells can be configured for a nano-satellite, the theory is applicable to other uses and he is currently working with a computer programmer to reconfigure a unit for use in farming

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.