'I thought I was going to die' UCT student scoops Honours degree after beating Covid-19

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Lance-Selae August.
Lance-Selae August.
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  • A UCT student who suffers from severe anxiety and depression graduated last week with a BA Honours in Theatre and Performance.
  • Lance-Selae August said his journey was hindered by Covid-19 and the loss of his best friend.
  • His honours research looked at potential ways to rethink, reframe, and rewrite what it means to be coloured in post-apartheid South Africa.

University of Cape Town (UCT) student Lance-Selae August never in his wildest dreams imagined cleaning lecture theatres for a living would result in him bagging a BA Honours in Theatre and Performance years later.

The Elsies River graduate told News24 that it wasn't smooth sailing at all and it was only when he graduated from UCT last week it began to sink in that he finally he had "made it". 

According to 27-year old August, life as a university student is nothing glamorous and students go through a lot behind closed doors, while many shy away from speaking up.

"The journey to obtaining my degree was hindered by me contracting Covid-19, losing my best friend, and suffering from heavy depression and anxiety," he said.

READ | Universities to move online amid Level 4 lockdown

Describing it as a very dark period for him, August said: "Covid sucked the life out of my body for about three weeks and whilst trying to recover I received the news that my best friend had passed away. The one person I could always lean on was taken away by the pandemic."

He said since childhood he loved watching television which prompted his "curiosity" for performing.

He graduated last week
Lance-Selae August.
Photo Supplied

"I had big dreams of becoming a TV presenter and actor, and I knew that to achieve that, I'd have to go and study drama," he said.

After matriculating from Elsies River High School in 2011, August made his first attempt at tertiary education – but that  "didn’t quite work out".

Without the necessary funding, and under pressure to bring home an income, he instead entered the workforce at a young age.

From working as a cleaner, telephonist, administrator, and personal assistant at a law firm, August said he know this was not supposed to be his life and ventured into finding alternative ways to secure funding for his studies.

Then he suffered another setback, when at the end of 2016, he was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

"I was so scared I would die," he said.

READ | DUT master's student makes and supplies sanitisers to university

Before the diagnosis, he was constantly being misdiagnosed: first with bronchitis and then with upper and lower respiratory tract infections. After a month on medication, X-rays revealed that he had pulmonary TB.

"I lost bizarre amounts of weight 14 kg at one stage, I was unable to eat, take care of myself and what was worse is that I stayed alone," August added.

Things started to look up in 2017 when he enrolled at UCT for a BA, majoring in drama, media, and writing.

While first year was tough and had him questioning whether drama was the right choice, the second year provided the turning point with the: "Learning through Drama and Theatre" course.

Change

"I found that I have a big interest in drama as a mode of learning. I developed a passion for applied theatre, which is a wide range of theatre practices that aim to provoke or shape social change," he explained.

August added that his Honours research looked at potential ways to rethink, reframe and rewrite what it means to be coloured in post-apartheid South Africa.

He did this through a workshop process using Theatre of the Oppressed modalities. He said:

It's an important topic because traditional and social media perpetuates a linear and one-dimensional or stereotypical way of what 'colouredness' is.

August said he is completely chuffed with himself for achieving his Honours degree even when life threw him lots of curveballs and a long "bumpy roads".

Now, the UCT graduate is embarking on his next journey, completing his Masters in Theatre research proposal that looks at the role of theatre in performing institutional memory and how it affects the student experience.

"The plan was always to excel in academics, and hopefully build a career out of it as knowledge is power," August said.

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