For many who do not know Sithembiso Ndlovu’s life story, the perception could easily be that the young man from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal is quite privileged. He was among the top five graduates in the Faculty of Education at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) and recently accepted a job offer at a Gauteng-based school. However, 22-year-old Gatsheni, as he is known to his friends, had a trying journey.
There is a common English proverb which denotes that “Blood is thicker than water”, meaning family ties are stronger than other relationships. When Ndlovu was in dire need of financial support while studying towards a Bachelor of Education (Further Education and Training) degree, it was a complete stranger who intervened in his situation.
Gatsheni grew up in a family where the only sources of income were the government social grant and his aunt’s meagre income generated from her street vending business.
Following years of hardship, today (Monday, 13 May 2019) Ndlovu is not only celebrating the achievement of his qualification with his family but he is celebrating obtaining his degree with Sabelo Mabaso, a friend without the support of whom graduating at the age of 22 would have been possible.
“It’s a very emotional day for me. I am overwhelmed because I had a very difficult life. I couldn’t ask for anything from my family, even if it was for school because they were struggling in front of me. I would spend nights and attend lectures on an empty stomach and wait for months before I could get something to wear.
“My life was like that until I met someone who changed my life for the better when I was doing grade 11. We were not family or friends; we were complete strangers. The only connection we had was that we came from the same area (in Ladysmith). I did not know him, but he treated me like family. He heard of my family’s struggles and offered to take care of me. He offered support and asked me to call him whenever I needed anything,” reflected an emotional Ndlovu.
Although Ndlovu’s saviour is twice his age, he refers to him as a friend because “a true friend is one who steps in when the whole world walks away”.
His friendship with Mabaso not only came with a financial boost, but it taught him a few lessons about life too. Because of Mabaso’s support, Ndlovu has been inspired to be compassionate towards other people, regardless of whether or not they are family.
With a degree and job already in the bag, Ndlovu’s dream is to now establish a career guidance foundation in rural areas which can aid in exposing youth to the various career opportunities available to them. Ndlovu said the only careers youth in rural areas seem to know of and gravitate towards is teaching and nursing and he hopes to change this.
– Samkele Sokhela
Sithembiso Ndlovu is indebted to his friend Sabelo Mabaso, who lent a helping hand when Ndlovu was struggling financially while studying towards his Bachelor of Education (Further Education and Training) degree.