From studying in a shack, with holes and no electricity, in the dusty streets of Braandvlei on the outskirts of Randfontein (West of Johannesburg) to obtaining two distinctions in Grade 12, Sithelosethu Sigwela is on his way to living his dream and changing his life.
The 20-year-old from Ithuteng Secondary School excelled in his studies despite challenges faced, proving that nothing can stand in his way of achieving success. He is one of the 40 recipients of the Randfontein Local Municipality’s mayoral bursary, which has given him a chance to study further at the University of Johannesburg.
The bursary scheme has received a cash injection of more than R12 million over the past 10 years since its inception. So far, 176 pupils have benefited from the scheme and 56 of them are graduates. Out of the 56 graduates, 47 have already been absorbed into the working community.
To qualify for the bursary one must obtain an average of 53 per cent in their studies and those who received the bursaries will study within the fields of Finance, Engineering, Economics and Law.
A dream come true
Sigwela is the oldest of six children and is the first in his family to not only get distinctions, but to go to university, a dream he was once sceptical of. “I thought I was going to sit at home and probably get a job as a cashier or something,” said Sigwela.
“My mother has been struggling for years now and it was even difficult for her to put me through school.” He said he wanted to be the best but sometimes couldn’t be due to financial constraints.
“There were times when I felt like giving up, but I knew I was better than that and that kept me going. “I cannot even begin to say how thankful I am to have received this bursary,” said Sigwela.
He said none of this could have been possible without endless nights of studying and the commitment he had towards his studies. He urged pupils to take education seriously, draw inspiration from his story and get a sense of what education can do for young people who continue to walk a similar path.
Speaking at the bursary awards ceremony, Randfontein Local Municipality Mayor Mzi Khumalo echoed the sentiments of the Freedom Charter, stating that the doors of learning and culture shall be open to all.
“I challenge all businesses in Randfontein and the community at large to do their bit and contribute towards the Mayoral Bursary Fund.
“Donations for a minimum of R10 per household monthly will be accepted to ensure that more pupils, who are deserving of the assistance, can be put through school the next academic year.
“The future of our youth lies not only in their hands but in ours as well,” says Khumalo who himself pledges R1 000 every month from his salary towards the bursary scheme.
The scheme is managed by a board of ten members who have been tasked with ensuring that the money spent can be accounted for.
Khumalo hopes that over the years no child in Randfontein deserving of the bursary will be left wanting and without an education.