She was abandoned by her mother when she was only a week old and at just 14 years old she was repeatedly raped, but Andiswa Lugomo did not allow these misfortunes to dictate her path in life.
The 25-year-old was among thousands of students who graduated from Walter Sisulu University (WSU) at Butterworth campus on Tuesday. She obtained a national diploma in office management and technology.
“Life had not been easy for me as I had to take the role of motherhood to my sibling, who was nine years old, and my seven-year-old niece. My mother left us with her relatives and after moving in and out with different family members, we ended up staying at her house. At times we would go to bed on an empty stomach but mostly we survived by asking for food from neighbours,” she shared.
In 2011, the construction of a new school began in her village, in Port Saint Johns in the Eastern Cape. The construction workers saw that Lugomo and her siblings were living without adult supervision.
“The men were not from my village and soon realised that we were staying on our own. They would come to my home and do as they pleased with me. There was only one who would give us food in exchange for sexual favours.”
The rape continued for two years.
In 2013, she was taken into the care of Mzomtsha Child and Youth Care Centre at the outskirts of Ngqeleni village, which changed her life for the better.
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“I had no proper school uniform and was always emotional in class. My teachers called the local councillor, who organised for social workers to help us. At first they would give us food parcels, but it was not every month. Then one day they said they had found me a new home. My niece was taken to her father’s home in Mqanduli and my younger sister was taken to my mother, who had moved to Johannesburg.”
Lugomo enrolled at WSU because she did not have to pay registration fees as she applied for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. While there, she began attending counselling sessions with the institution’s clinic student counsellor.
“Opening up about my struggles was not easy at first, but they were very patient with me and they were very helpful throughout my studies. The therapy unit helped to restore my dignity and self-esteem. I will forever be grateful to the centre and the institution. The counselling unit made me realise how valuable I am in life and that I will succeed no matter what.”
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She recalled how tough her journey was, as she often struggled to keep up with her studies, but said the university made tutors available to her. She also joined the institution’s peer assisted learning programme and became an information administration tutor.
Lugomo plans to pursue her studies further and one day earn a PhD. To do so, however, she needs financial assistance.
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