Soweto man overcomes depression to get engineering degree

2017-12-15 16:47
Matimba Mabonda, 25, has attained his degree in chemical engineering from UCT. (Supplied)

Matimba Mabonda, 25, has attained his degree in chemical engineering from UCT. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - After overcoming depression, financial difficulties and several academic setbacks, a Soweto-born man is to finally attain his degree in chemical engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

"Mental health is a reality," 25-year-old Matimba Mabonda said as he offered advice for others who encounter similar difficulties.

"It's very uncommon for the black community to seek help because we grow up being told depression is not a thing. One has to be strong... People should always seek help."

READ: SA doesn't have money for free higher education - Heher Commission

Mabonda arrived at UCT in 2012, where stress overwhelmed him, as well as pressures from home and his determination to "make it".

After losing his bursary from ArcelorMittal following his academic underperformance, he finally sought the help of a psychologist at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

'Dark place'

With assistance from the university's students' representative council, he received funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

"The degree itself, though challenging, was not the problem, but rather other unresolved personal issues that came into play. It was a dark place for me."

Mabonda grew up in a one-room shack in Mountain View, Grasmere, where he had to wake up 04:30 daily to take a two-hour journey by train to Altmont Technical High School in Protea South.

He matriculated in 2011 with six distinctions, in Xitsonga, mathematics, physical science, engineering graphics and design, civil technology and life orientation, and was awarded a bursary from ArcelorMittal soon afterward.

He credits his dad for his academic success.

"My dad inspired me to be diligent and to do my best in everything," a proud Mabonda said.

"He was a plasterer... and the diligence and passion he displayed for this trade showed me that it is imperative to persevere if you want to succeed in life."

Once his grades improved at UCT with the help of the psychologist, ArcelorMittal awarded him a second bursary.

He has been working at the company's Coke and Chemicals plant in Vanderbijlpark since February.

Mabonda urged other students in similar situations to seek help, despite what they had been taught previously.

"The moment I relaxed and let nature take its course, my grades picked up. So, taking a moment to breathe makes it easy to find resolutions instead of giving up," he said.

"Once you accept that things will happen to you and there is nothing you can do about it, stress miraculously leaves your life."

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Read more on:    uct  |  arcelormittal  |  cape town  |  education  |  good news

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