Off to varsity thanks to stranger’s altruism

2012-01-21 19:25

Growing up in the rural district of Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal, Soze Mbewama secretly nursed a dream of becoming a teacher.

This was despite the fact that no one in his immediate family had ever set foot in a tertiary institution. The family survived on his father’s pension, but he died and Mbewama, who is 24, became the breadwinner for his family of four.

The desire to teach was a pipe dream for Mbewama, who works as a trolley pusher at Gateway Mall – until recently.

He and two of his colleagues, Sphamandla Nene and Sabelo Blose who are both 22, were presented with a unique opportunity to further their studies at the University of South Africa (Unisa).

This was thanks to a woman who took seriously the tag line “in the service of humanity”, which she saw at work every day.

Linda Nhlumayo, Unisa’s regional services centre manager for the province, not only helped the trio to enrol at the institution last year but personally forked out 80% of their tuition fees when they couldn’t secure funding. The rest of the money was donated by five other staff members.

“Sis Linda asked us why we weren’t at school. When she found out that we had matric and we couldn’t afford tertiary education, she gave us forms to fill in. She told us she would assist us to source funding,” Nene told City Press.

The trio have successfully completed their first semester. Nene is studying public relations, while Mbewama and Blose are starting off with a bridging course before embarking on teaching diplomas.

“In high school my classmates used to tell me that I was a born teacher because I was able to help them understand hard concepts. When this door opened for me, I knew it would be my only shot and I plan to give it all I have,” said Mbewama.

He matriculated in 2009. But he sat at home for the whole of 2010 with no employment. As a last resort, he became a taxi conductor before securing his current job.

“I have to pinch myself to see if this is really happening. With the salary I get here, I can hardly afford to stay afloat. I have to pay rent and taxi fare on top of the added responsibility of supporting my family.”

Nhlumayo attributed her actions to another stranger who did the same for her years ago. “That stranger decided to invest in me by paying for my tertiary studies. I wanted to do the same.”

She will help Nene apply for funding when the Student Funding Office opens in March. The other two will only qualify for funding once they have completed their access programme.

But until then, their costs, along with the required registration fees, have been paid by Nhlumayo and other staff members.

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