October 23, 2020

Chemical Engineer, Entrepreneur, Single-mom and pioneer for Smart Education

JOHANNESBURG, SA – Hi there, I’m Phumlile Nkomo but you can call me Phumi. I come from a family of education pioneers.  My 98 year old grandmother was educated by her farm laborer father and ensured that all 11 of her children were educated and skilled. My grandmother, the educated one worked whilst my grandfather stayed home with the kids. I am the third generation of matriarchs.  Yes, I have a strong personality but I’m also sensitive to other people’s feelings as an empath. 

The need for holistic education

I remember being one of those super sensitive kids growing up.  I cried a lot and was even bullied.  Over time I developed a coping mechanism which was an aggressive nature that said “don’t even mess with me.” I struggled a lot with managing my emotions and inevitably, having healthy relationships.

I was raised by a single-mom, she worked hard to afford me the best education.  We don’t come from a wealthy family, in fact I grew up in the rural areas and later a township in KZN, Clermont before my mother moved us into a flat in Pinetown.

My mom’s goal was to give me the best in life, which she interpreted as sending me to a private primary school and former model-C high school where I was one the only black girl in my class.

The former model-C high school exposed me to a whole new way of life.  I’d see parents dropping off their kids, hugging them, kissing them and telling them they love them.  And I never had that, not because my mother didn’t love me but because she was working and providing so I could attend those schools. 20 odd years later, I am introduced to love languages and that explained why I wanted to be physically touched and told I am loved, whilst my mother provided and gave acts of services to show her love.

Now as a mother of a six year old girl, I must take it to the next level.  My daughter goes to a private 3-term  Montessori school and I am attentive to how she communicates and receives love.  As an observant parent, I’m noticing monumental gaps in preparing children for real life and the 4th industrial age.

Photo Cred: Lorani Images +27 61 262 8673

The Need for Emotional Intelligence

We all want our children to be financially and emotionally intelligent and have functional healthy relationships.  Of course, we want our children to be happy. As parents we work hard, exchanging time for money and send our children to schools where they are taught everything EXCEPT financial and emotional intelligence.

Due to the disadvantage of never being taught how to manage stress and emotions, I was hospitalized for depression in November 2017. In addition to medication, I attended classes at the hospital where I was taught about emotional intelligence, identifying my personality, behaviors and managing the different personalities. I was taught about radical acceptance, and boundaries. My first thought was why wasn’t I taught this at school?  Why do I have to wait for a breakdown in my 30s to be taught these basic life skills?

I saw children as young as 12 years old hospitalized for depression. And I saw that extent of the pandemic of mental disorders that is upon us.  I knew something needed to be done.

Our children, our future and legacy, aren’t learning how to cope with life, we didn’t either and nor did our parents and their parents.  But we are the generation that can change this.

What Future is the current education system promising?

I think we are now beginning to see that the current education system is flawed but no solutions have been brought to the table as yet.  Even private schools are not providing the holistic education our children need.  In fact, there is greater pressure in private schools for children to conform to some robotic standards, and more and more children are being drugged to get them to behave in a standard way.   

We need a holistic education system, understanding that as human beings we have two fundamental goals.  One is self-preservation and the other is making human connections.  The gold of life is learning how to find the niche within this spectrum in each of our relationships.

We all need to learn  how to interact with people without sacrificing ourselves i.e. developing healthy boundaries or finding that balance, that sweet spot, between self preservation and connection.

So why don’t we provide our children with the tools that they actually need to succeed in life?

As a mother, I am no longer waiting for someone else to provide the solution.


How do we define Education?   

Yes, my institutionalized education has afforded me great career opportunities.  Such as being a process engineer for an electricity producing company.

Also in terms of salary, I remember seeing a census that indicated that I was earning in the Top 5% in South Africa in terms of salaries.  And that’s based on the fact that I have a chemical engineering degree. My employment was a combination of a national drive for engineers into a state owned enterprise as well as the degree I had chosen to study. 

But will this work for my daughter?  And how do we define education anyways?  What is the purpose of sending our children to school? If our goal for educating our children is for them to have emotional, intellectual and financial intelligence then we are not going about it correctly.  If we want our children to be happy, have functional relationships and manage their emotions, the current education system still does not provide these critical life skills.  I am adamant, my daughter will receive these skills.

In Closing

The current generation of women are the first to be awarded all opportunities.  We can have careers, families and businesses.  However relationships are also failing in an exponential rate as well. Over 60% of South African children are growing up without a father in the home.  The pressure on the current woman is immense.  But we are also living during this 4th Industrial Age.  We have so many tools available to us that can help alleviate this pressure.  This generation has the responsibility not only to ensure that our children are well equipped for their future, but also to model leveraging technology to make our lives easier.   

To collaborate with me on my smart education project, please email ; info@smartdaycarecentres.co.za

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Chemical Engineer, Entrepreneur, Single-mom and pioneer for Smart Education

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