A 25-year-old Witsie has found many obstacles on the road to achieving his dreams.
Few people ever make it out of Mohlaletse but for those that make it, their lives are changed for the better. Some leave to study, others to look for work. Many others are just fleeing from the rural Limpopo village whose youth are consumed by drugs and crime, leaving them with no hope.
On January 5, I was presented with an opportunity to break these odds of hopelessness when I was admitted to the journalism honours programme at Wits University. I was about to be among the best in the world!
I had to convince my mom to allow me to study at Wits even though she could not afford the R42 402 tuition fees because I was confident that I would get a bursary as I had graduated with distinctions.
By early April, the situation was terrible. Even though I had received a postgraduate merit award, meaning my mother did not have to pay tuition, the financial strain on her, having to pay for three children at university with a mere teacher’s salary, was immense.
She took a loan and sent me R4 000 to cover accommodation and living expenses. After paying the R3 700 rent, I was left with R300 for the entire month, which had to cover electricity. I had to stretch a loaf of sliced bread over many days. I felt alienated and could not concentrate on my coursework.
I would walk to school in the morning when the street was bustling. Then later, I would use Uber to return to my accommodation in the Johannesburg CBD, especially if it was at night, even though I could barely afford it, because I was afraid of being mugged.
Before I arrived in Johannesburg, my elder brother, who is studying at the Tshwane University of Technology, had warned me not to speak to taxi drivers in English, as this would earn me a thrashing. He never told me why, but I suspected he must have had a rude awakening.
I miss speaking Sepedi, however, it is not very useful in Johannesburg and my isiZulu is so poor that many things I had taken for granted, such as buying food or getting a haircut, are very difficult.
For the first time in my life, I was in my country and yet it felt foreign. Everything was different, and it was not easy. I struggled with my academic performance because I was not in a good mental space and did not have the energy to hold on.
I remember having thoughts of suicide because the pressure was intense. I would wake up in the middle of the night, asking myself, “Why am I here?” I felt as displaced as a fish plucked out of water.
I struggled with mundane tasks while my classmates were excelling. I was broken, tired and helpless. I wanted to drop out and return to the peace of my village. But when I thought of the struggles she had endured to get me where I was, I could not fail my mother.
My brother came to my rescue and suggested that I sought help. When I reached out to the university for help I was listened to, assisted with funding, and told about the Wits Food Programme and the Counselling and Careers Development Unit. I was also advised to join student clubs and societies, which I did. Now I am a proud member of the Postgraduate Club and the Wits Debating Union.
My brother also introduced me to the Westridge Study Centre in Parktown, a Catholic male university residence that has become my second home.
While I do not stay there, I visit almost every weekend now. Everyone is friendly, supportive and there are many fun activities. I have met many students in different careers, some from other countries in Africa. Even as I still experience stress, I now know that I am not alone.
I have become hopeful again that one day I will graduate, to fulfil my life’s purpose, which is to tell Africa’s untold stories.
FEATURED IMAGE: Mpho Hlakudi. Photo: File.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: Johannesburg will break, build you April 2021