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07 June 2021

UMP GIVES TEEN MOM WINGS TO FLY

“Being a student at UMP has been my greatest achievement thus far. It has given me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams and to build a future for myself. I will not be bound by the chains of poverty, or let anyone tell me there is something I cannot achieve.”

Hard-working student and excellent athlete, Khumalo’s journey as an orphan and teen mom has not been an easy one. She says she has always had to persevere and overcome life’s hardships for the sake of her son.

“I was not ready to have a child, and though I had no one to help me but my sister, who was also still young, we found a way to make it work. I had to leave school to stay home with my son. I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was also very hard because it felt like I could literally see my future fading away. Our hardships also multiplied because we had no finances and I was forced to find a job. A relative offered me work as a domestic and promised to pay me R500 a month. That never materialized and all they gave me in the end was R150," she says.

“I decided there and then that this was not the life I wanted. I enrolled to complete my matric in 2016 and passed with university exemption. It was not easy and I hardly slept. I worked hard and managed to succeed. I had proven to myself that one small misstep did not mean my future was lost.”

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JOINING THE UMP JOURNEY
Khumalo applied to several different universities and was accepted by most, but it was only the University of Mpumalanga that offered her a bursary and assisted with the registration fees. With her chosen field of study, Khumalo hopes to help build strong young minds of the future, and to help them choose the right path, but also to show them, that even when you waiver, or things do not go exactly as planned, its never too late to start over and build a better future.

It is not only academically that Khumalo is thriving. “I’ve been part of the USSA (University Sport South Africa) team twice, once in 2018, and again now in 2021. I like participating in sports because it helps me stay fit and focused. It has allowed me to see places I never would have seen otherwise. When I first started studying at UMP, I did not even know about all the wonderful opportunities that are available to students," she says.

She recalls how it all came about. "My residence roommate encouraged me to go see the Sports Officer Mr Aggrey Mokoena, and the rest, as they say, is history. We had our first athletics competition in 2018 on the main campus in Mbombela. Mr Trust Nkomo wanted me to participate with the guys because I was the only female doing long distance (3 000 meters) and the guys were doing (5 000 meters). I was so scared at first but he told me to run my own race and never be ashamed.”

Khumalo definitely ran her own race that day, and has been doing that for most of her life, proving to herself and others that anything is possible.

“Being a single mom was and is extremely hard, but it has taught me to be strong. Not only for myself, but also for this innocent soul I have brought into this world. Growing up without parents and being a single mom has taught me how to stand up for myself, to work hard, dream big, and always strive towards my goals. It has taught me to never be ashamed of who I am or where I come from.”

“Being here at UMP has opened my eyes to the world of opportunities out there, and also within myself. I have come to realise that you need to follow your dreams and never give up. When I took the decision to rewrite my matric, people were quick to laugh and judge me. It would have been easy to give up right then and there, but I persevered and am so grateful for where I am today.”

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied