If it’s your first day back at work today after the Festive Season and you need cheering up, you’ll love the story of Ntombizodwa Mahlangu: with support and encouragement from her family, employer and colleagues, she made the transition despite being a single parent from domestic worker to graduate in under ten years.
That’s a huge achievement in South Africa where educational standards between the rich and poor vary vastly and as such, the gap between school and university for most is a chasm that’s simply too big to cross.
The photo in this post went viral across South Africa (and the global South African diaspora): Ntombizodwa was so surprised that she’d become such a beacon to those from similar backgrounds. "I am so humbled and grateful for the support. When I shared that picture on Facebook I never thought that it would be so viral," she said. "As much as my friends are motivated, so am I. Because of the messages from across the world I have realised that the journey has just began. There is more to come!”
What’s even more remarkable is that Ntombizodwa grew up in Mpumalanga, a beautiful but deeply rural province which further marginalises people, particularly young black women. As is typical of rural families, she was raised by her grandparents only seeing her parents, who left to find work in the cities, once or twice a year.
She got work as a domestic worker in her own village and then by putting herself through a computer course managed to get an office job. Several office jobs later, she was able with help from an employer to finance a UNISA (distance learning) degree and graduated aged 33 with a degree in public administration – and all this whilst raising her daughter who is now 13.
As she says: "I have learned that nothing is impossible as long as you put your full effort and work hard towards reaching that goal. As said by one of my friends, 'it is never too late until you are the late'." So a sense of humour too then!
Images courtesy of www.timeslive.co.za