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University, Newsletter
29 July 2021

ORPHAN BECOMES THE FIRST TO GRADUATE IN HER FAMILY

“I'm the first graduate in my family. I’m the last born in a family of three children and none of my brothers reached university level. I feel excited to have broken that chain and to have become the first graduate. I'm sure my parents are rejoicing with me in heaven.”

Makgeru wishes that her parents were still alive to witness her academic achievements.

“I would have loved for my parents to witness such a beautiful moment and ululate for me. I lost my parents at a very young age and life wasn't easy for me. Getting an education was my only ticket out of my situation,” she says.

Makgeru was awarded for Best Student in 2019 and 2020. She reveals that her journey was not an easy one but because she is a goal-driven and passionate young woman who always looks on the bright side, she worked hard to make the most of her life.

“In 2018 after I enrolled for my degree, things were very bad financially. I had no funding or anyone to assist me with even basic necessities. All I wanted was to deregister. You can imagine how tough it was as a first-year student struggling with a lot of things including food,” she continues.

“One of my lecturers whom I met during orientation encouraged me to stay at school and to never quit. She assisted me with groceries until NSFAS funded me. From that day I vowed to work hard and get the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship, which I received in 2019.”

Makgeru adds that receiving the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship encouraged and motivated her to focus on her academics. It was in 2020 that she went through a dip with the pandemic and lockdown as her circumstances greatly affected her.

“I went through a very challenging time. My worst was studying at home, something I was never used to. Our homes are not conducive for studying – especially when there are no facilities, no data and living in a village with poor network,” she says.

Another blow that year was when Makgeru fell pregnant and her baby was born with complications.

“I felt that it would be difficult for me to complete my studies with the same motivation and pace as the previous years. I wrote all my second semester tests while studying from the hospital where I was with my sick baby,” she continues.

“There were days I felt like giving up on my academics and focusing on my sick child. But because I had a great support system of lecturers, friends and family that kept giving me strength, I continued and didn’t give up.”

Makgeru says she studied in the hospital ward where she was admitted with her baby. But devices were not allowed in the nursery, so she sneaked to the bathroom or other wards to study for tests.

“Luckily, last year exams were postponed to January and that bought me some time to study all my second semester work. As always, I did not allow my situation to knock me down. I rose above my circumstances. I managed to come out with a few distinctions. I'm now a graduate who passed Cum Laude.”

Makgeru is studying her Honours at the University of Mpumalanga. Her advice to other students is to be resilient and never give up, even when the going gets tough. “There will always be tough times, but these only make you strong and strengthen your resolve to succeed; they allow you to become the best possible version of yourself.”

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.