Trauma has the ability to make even the strongest people crumble at the slightest hint of adversity.
However, after enduring a series of tragedies, University of Cape Town (UCT) student Sipho Mbadaliga is a testament to the mental strength and resilience human beings are capable of.
Despite losing his father, brother-in-law and a close friend in his final year of his Business Science undergraduate course, Mbadaliga managed to muster the courage to complete the academic year and graduate with the rest of his class.
The soon-to-be Business Science graduate from a small town in Limpopo was used to succeeding.
He had already scooped up seven distinctions in his matric year and made it onto the Dean's Merit List at UCT.
But tragedy struck when the news came that his father, a school teacher in good health, had suddenly passed away on March 24, 2017.
"Losing a parent is one of the most difficult things a child can experience."
He said he went back home for a week, and when he returned to university, he stayed in his room for another week.
"I didn't go to class for two weeks. I needed those two weeks to reflect," Mbadaliga explained.
"I couldn't concentrate, but I needed to catch up on everything I missed."
Mbadaliga's life was deeply influenced by his father, he said.
"He was my role model. He was always present in my life – not all children are that fortunate. He sacrificed a lot of time and was very supportive," he said.
'A cycle of bad news'
Less than a month later, Mbadaliga was dealt another blow – his brother-in-law had died.
Three days after that, one of his closest friends lost her life.
"This was just a problem on top of another problem. There was just a cycle of bad news. I had to study because I had to write four tests in a row."
Mbadaliga would only pass one of the four tests. He received 38% and 39% respectively, something that had never happened to him before and he felt himself slipping into depression.
"I became despondent because I was trying to pass, but I just couldn't," he said.
He could not afford to fail a year, as he was already struggling to pay his tuition fees for his final year.
"I didn't have a sponsor for my final year, so I had to apply for scholarships," he said.
"But I kept on getting rejection letters. It felt like the phrase 'We regret to inform you' became part of my daily life," he said.
Fortunately, the company that had initially funded his studies agreed to sponsor him.
Things were finally starting to turn around for Mbadaliga.
Through perseverance and hard work, he managed to pass his final year.
"When I told my mom my results, she was overjoyed because she knew it was a tough year. She didn't have any expectations because I had to overcome all of these obstacles," he recalled.
Mbadaliga said he believed that it was through the grace of God and his support structure that he was able to endure his final year.
"I had a strong support structure. I remember friends coming to my room and praying with me before I left to attend my father's funeral," he said.
"There was a time when I questioned my spirituality and I stopped going to church. I blamed God for everything. But now I know that without God – I wouldn't have had the strength to go through this."
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