Oftentimes getting ahead requires a helping hand and we all have a role to play. Nqobakonke Ndaba shares his journey to a varsity education at the University of the Witwatersrand.
BD: So, just a bit of background; where are you from?
NN: I come from Gingindlovu in KwaZulu Natal. I grew up in Harding, raised by my gran then moved to Gingindlovu for my High School education.
BD: What High School was this?
NN: It’s called Isinyabusi High School. It’s a rural school, so it wasn’t well equipped. There were no computers for us to use and no labs.
BD: So when did you matriculate and how were your grades?
NN: I matriculated in 2013. My grades were ok. I got a bachelors degree pass.
BD: So what did you want to study after Matric? What courses did you apply for?
NN: I was interested in Medicine, Pharmacy and Bachelor of Clinical and Medical Practice.
BD: Interesting, so you were purely interested in the medical field. Why is that?
NN: The health system where I grew up was really bad, in fact it still is.
BD: Oh I see. So, to which Universities did you apply?
NN: I applied to Wits and UCT. UCT offered me a Speech Therapy degree and Wits accepted me for a Bachelor of Clinical and Medical Practice, which I opted for.
UCT’s fees were also very expensive and that’s something I also had to consider in my options. At this point I had no idea how I was going to pay for my fees. So besides the fact that I was more interested in Clinical and Medical Practice, the Wits registration fee was much cheaper.
BD: Had you applied for financial aid or any bursaries?
NN: Yes. I applied for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and I applied for bursaries at the department of Health but I didn’t get any of these.
My gran is a pensioner, so she had to borrow money from a distant family member who owns taxis, just so I could register. My High School teacher, Mr Dube, also assisted with some funds for my registration.
BD: How much was registration?
NN: Registration was about R9 350, but I only had to pay about R6 350 because they deduct R1500 for every distinction you have, and I had two A’s (distinctions) and lots of B’s.
BD: So you got to Wits with just registration fees?
NN: Yes. No accommodation and no funds to pay for my tuition. I stayed with a friend for a week and thereafter I needed to sort out my own accommodation. So I visited the SRC offices, Student Support Office and the Financial Aid Offices every day; but I wasn’t getting any help. Some people were even telling me to de-register and return the following year when I have funds. The Health Faculty registrar put me on a waiting list for sponsors.
BD: So how long did it take before you got help? What did you do?
I eventually requested to see the then SRC president Mr Shaffe who took my case to the Dean of Student affairs, Dr Pamela Dube. Dr Dube, gave me hope, she called the head of res life Rob Sharman, and I got a place to sleep that night. Dr Pam then called me and told me about Mukovhe Morris Masutha and told me to expect a call from him. I didn’t wait long and Morris called me, he asked me to meet him at the main campus accommodation office during lunch. Before I even met with Morris I received a message from the accommodation office stating that I have residence accommodation.
When I met with Morris during lunch, he gave me a letter to take to res which stated that I had a full bursary and that letter was on a Thusanani Foundation letterhead, so I finally had funding and accommodation!
The health faculty registrar also helped me a lot as she arranged text books and equipment for me from her pocket. I am very grateful to all these people who believed in me.
BD: So now you are doing your 2nd year, how long is your degree? Will Thusanani Foundation be funding you till you complete or do you have to still look for sponsors?
Yes I am doing my second year and I am fully funded by Thusanani Foundation till I complete my degree which is a three year degree, however I would like to study further, I don’t want to leave it at just that.
BD: What is expected of you from Thusanani Foundation? Do you need to pay that money back when you are done studying?
Thusanani only expects you to study hard and pass. They don’t expect to any refunds but they do hope that we go and give back to our communities. Over the December holidays I volunteered at the local clinic, Kwambotho Clinic in my village (Harding) and the people there were so grateful, I even get phone calls from them. I had my own consulting room where I saw patients with any complaints and I would diagnose and treat them.
BD: How has your transition to varsity life been? Do you feel you are fitting in well and comfortable with this varsity world?
It’s been really good, I have made a lot of friends here.
BD: So the SRC started the 1 Million, 1 Month campaign to collect funds to pay registration fees for needy students, since NSFAS funding is running short. These are people in a position you once were in. What do you think of this initiative?
I know a lot of people who have been excluded because they cannot afford to pay, so I think the SRC is doing a really great job.
BD: Thank you Nqobakonke for sharing your story with us and all the best with your studies. We hope we can catch you again when you graduate.