Durban – It cost Mervin Chetty R280 to open a tuck shop in his mother's kitchen that would eventually go on to pay for his bachelor's degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).Chetty, 35, on Wednesday received his doctorate in computer science from UKZN, 17 years after he started studying at the university."[My story] is a story of success against the odds and victory for the underdog. It's a story about inspiration, about persevering through struggles and about believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel," Chetty said in a statement by the university.Chetty was forced to leave UKZN after his mother lost her job six months into his bachelor's degree in 2000."In any broken home, especially those affected by the chains of poverty, the chances of success for the children are slim, with academic success at the highest university level a distant dream," he said.Chetty opened a tuck shop in his mother's kitchen to compensate for the loss of her income."I quickly realised that my family couldn't survive on only my father's salary," he told News24."It was opened literally to earn bread and milk for the day."'One academic step at a time'In 2010, Chetty returned to UKZN to complete his BSc degree."Going back was a difficult decision to make... I didn't know how I would cope academically as my academic performance had been poor. However, I was determined to complete what I had started," he said."I knew I had the ability so I turned the tables of failure and completed my final undergraduate year with an 86% average."Chetty's academic performance secured him a university scholarship to pursue a BSc honours degree in computer science, which he completed in 2011 despite family difficulties."The experience of completing my honours while watching my personal life crumble around me made me realise that I could do anything if I put my mind to it," he said.Chetty soon completed his masters in 2013 and his doctorate in computer science in 2016."In the end, I challenged myself one academic step at a time. From being a university dropout, I now have my PhD. So if you have failed, do not despair. Even in difficult circumstances there is hope," he said.Chetty is currently writing a book about the difficulties he faced while at university."You can always go back and complete what you started – I did," he said.