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Maties student pays it forward by skipping grad party to raise funds for those in need

Thembalethu Seyisi Picture: Ernst Gouws

Thembalethu Seyisi Picture: Ernst Gouws

Published Apr 1, 2022


Stellenbosch student, Thembalethu Seyisi, decided to use his graduation celebration in support of a good cause. The 22-year-old who was awarded the Rector’s Award for Excellence in Social Impact last year, will raise funds for #Action4Inclusion, a crowdfunding campaign aimed at alleviating student debt when he receives his LLB degree next week.

The #Action4Inclusion initiative, launched in 2020, was established by Stellenbosch University’s Student Representative Council under the patronage of Professor Thuli Madonsela, the Law Faculty Chair in Social Justice. The funds raised via #Action4Inclusion are used to support students who cannot register for the next academic year owing to outstanding fees, as well as graduates who cannot access their academic records upon graduation.

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Thembalethu is known for his dedication to social justice and tireless efforts to improve the lives of young people. When he turned 21 in 2020, Thembalethu decided to publish a book, 21 Life Lessons @ 21, to raise funds for charity instead of hosting a birthday bash. While still a third-year law student, Thembalethu approached 21 successful people he admires – some high-profile role models as well as personal heroes and family members – asking them to share one life lesson or insight they wish they’d known at 21. The result is 21 Life Lessons @ 21, a wonderful collection of stories by inspirational South Africans such as Justice Edwin Cameron, Prof. Thuli Madonsela, Prof. Kgethi Phakeng, Sello Hatang, Sandra Prinsloo, Khaya Sithole, Zelda la Grange, and many more.

“Throwing a big party wasn’t an option in 2020 because of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

"I decided I wanted to celebrate my 21st birthday by doing something meaningful. I also felt a need to ‘pay it forward’. Over the past few years, I have benefited so much from amazing role models in my life. I’m deeply grateful for the unique opportunities I’ve had, such as the Ciucci Bursary awarded by the Stella Foundation, which enables me to study law at Stellenbosch University.

"I wanted other young people also to experience the love, grace, and inspiration I have benefited from. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to have met wonderful people whose experiences are a source of inspiration for young and old in the difficult times we face. Another big consideration in publishing 21 Life Lessons @ 21 was raising money for causes I feel passionate about, such as helping students pay outstanding university fees so they can graduate," he said.

After completing his LLB degree last year, Thembalethu started working as a candidate attorney at Cluver Markotter Attorneys in Stellenbosch in January. His graduation party at Middelvlei Wine Estate on 5 April will serve as a fundraising event and guests will be asked to make a donation to #Action4Inclusion.

Thembalethu says he looks forward to his graduation celebration as an opportunity to say a big thank you to friends, family, and lecturers who have supported and encouraged him throughout his studies at Stellenbosch University.

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"I also feel a need to share the good fortune I’ve had to study at a world-class university and to spread the joy of my graduation to other students who are still struggling with student debt," he added.

Thembalethu says he is “deeply honoured” that Professor Thuli Madonsela and Justice Edwin Cameron are endorsing his graduation fundraiser.

"I’m also extremely grateful to Jeanneret Momberg at Middelvlei and Maties Alumni for helping me organise this special event at such a beautiful location," Thembalethu says.

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People who want to help this remarkable young man “pay it forward” can make a financial contribution to #Action4Inclusion at Thembalethu has also made 50 copies of 21 Life Lessons @ 21 available for his graduation fundraiser drive. The books will be signed by Prof. Wim De Villiers (rector and vice-chancellor of SU), Prof. Thuli Madonsela, and Justice Edwin Cameron.

The book can be ordered from the website You can buy a PDF version (R150) of 21 Life Lessons @ 21 or a print version (R250) on the website. This book with its many stories of resilience and hope is the perfect gift for people of all ages who believe in a bright future for South Africa.


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