Paballo Chauke (27)

Training and outreach co-ordinator, H3ABioNet-Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa

A self-confessed professional troublemaker, Paballo Chauke says he “grew up in conditions of squalor that made me hungry for success and opportunities to change my life and those around me”. Chauke now works in bioinformatics and is passionate about climate change and development in Africa.

Chauke obtained an undergraduate degree and honours in Environmental and Geographical Sciences and Sociology from the University of Cape Town (UCT). In 2016 he did an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford in the UK. Throughout his studies he assumed many leadership roles and volunteer positions.

He now works as a training and outreach co-ordinator, at H3ABioNet-Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa. He also supervises, mentors and guest lecture at the School of International Training.

He was recently employed as a co-ordinator of the education portfolio for the African Climate and Development Initiative, where he assisted in consolidating, co-ordinating and managing its portfolio of courses and training programs, internships, fellowships and scholarships.

Chauke says his mother’s fighting spirit made him who he is today. He is the youngest of three children and the first and only one to graduate in his family. “I had too many challenges navigating university, as no one in my family had the social, cultural and financial capital to navigate those exclusionary spaces. I am an unrelenting individual, hence I was able to come out at the end a conqueror, and continue to conquer.

“There is an urgent need to develop a new generation of researchers, practitioners and decision-makers who are equipped with the necessary skills and experience to tackle climate change, because ultimately it will affect the marginalised Africans more than anyone else,” says Chauke.

In his second year at UCT he was taught by a black lecturer, Professor Maano Ramutsindela, who motivated Chauke to get the first of 10 medals while studying. “Every bone in my being knows that seeing that black man hold the space and excel at his job, really is the main reason I was pushed and believed that I too matter, that I too can be and am excellent.” — Rumana Akoob

Twitter: @withpaballo