A WSU medical student tried in vain to hold back her tears as an unexpected embrace and the sincerest words of gratitude from a pupil in a Mthatha school left her emotional.
Fifth-year medical student Bulelwa Duze saw her efforts to solicit funding to buy uniforms for underprivileged pupils reap rich rewards on Thursday 22 May. Thanks to Duze’s fundraising endeavours, close to 30 needy children at Nqgeleni’s Buntingville Junior Secondary School received school shirts, socks, shoes, jerseys, tracksuits and beanies to the tune of close to R12 000.
“When I heard the plight of these children, I made a decision to spearhead a campaign that would see our community coming together to help make the pursuit of education a little bit more bearable for at least a few of our students,” said an emotional Duze.
Duze, who hails from the dusty streets of the Gauteng township of Daveyton, said she wanted to provide the pupils with the same support she received from her family, who didn’t have much, but made sure her they invested in her whatever little they had.
“I can identify with these children because I too am from a poor background. My parents couldn’t afford to take me to University so I’ve had to work extra hard to make sure I excel in my studies so I can get bursaries. A support base is critical to any child and student because it creates hope when there seems to be none,” said Duze.
Duze’s fundraising efforts started in February this year when she solicited funds from her church and her family, fellow students, medical interns and doctors at the Nelson Mandela Teaching School. By the end of it all, she’d even enlisted the help of a member of staff within the University’s Health Sciences faculty, who managed to help raise more funds through her prayer group.
The staffer in question, WSU Head of Medical Biology Dr Marykutty Mammen said the idea for the initiative came about during a research visit to the school last year as part of the first-year class’s Community-Based Education and Services programme.
She said whilst her students were taking physical measurements of some of the pupils, she noticed that a lot of the pupils’ uniforms were old, torn and worn out.
“I found that some learners were wearing torn shoes, socks and jerseys. I felt bad and I informed my students and student-mentors about this plight, to which Bulelwa immediately responded,” said Mammen.
Beaming from the day’s festivities, Grade 9 pupil Celiwe Mqikela (15) said putting on her brand new uniform was something she’ll never forget.
Her schoolmate, 14-year-old Sikhungo Bango broke down in tears when she received her full school uniform.
“I will now be able to look like other children thanks to Sis’Bulelwa. I will be able to play with other children without having to be ashamed of what I look like,” said Bango.
It was the mention of her mother’s unsuccessful efforts to buy her a new school uniform that left Duze drenched in tears.
“My mother will be so happy to see me in my school uniform. You’ve done in one morning what she’s tried but failed to do in years. I thank you!” said Bango.
Duze says this is the beginning of bigger and better things to come.
“Once you feel how great it is to give, you want to give some more. I wish I had lots of money so I could give to other students in a similar situation,” she said.
With plans afoot to officially establish a registered organisation that will have the necessary mechanisms in place to cope with potential investors interested in ploughing back big, this wish might just come to fruition sooner than she expects.
Dr Mammen said the University’s health sciences faculty is one of the 11 medical schools globally which forms part of the Social Accountability Research Group, to which she and Duze are committee members.
“We are committed to the social responsiveness and needs of the community as this is also the mission of our faculty,” concluded Mammen.