Sakhile Nsibande enjoys the comfort of proper student lodgings in Glenwood.
Sakhile Nsibande enjoys the comfort of proper student lodgings in Glenwood.

Student one step closer to his dream

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Jun 27, 2020

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Durban - Having things “on paper” means a lot to Sakhile Nsibande.

So much so that he walked 15km to school and back, often on an empty stomach, and spent years studying accounting by correspondence under harsh circumstances.

He has lived homeless in parks and worked as a pipe fitter, but he was not able to progress further without the necessary certificates.

Now, at 29, Nsibande has six months’ relief as he pursues his final goal of “getting some paper”.

He is being fed and housed in a Glenwood student lodging, thanks to Fundi, an education finance and fund management company, which learned through the media about him soldiering on in a municipal shelter during lockdown.

“I am just finishing my last modules for my Higher Certificate in economic and management science through Unisa,” he told the Independent on Saturday.

“After that, I shall be ready to start my BCom.”

Nsibande said, in addition to Fundi, he had many other people to thank for motivating him and helping him.

At his high school, near Hluhluwe, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, teachers helped him with affidavits so he could sit for his matric exam without an identity document.

People in his village of Kwanibela kept reminding him that, as the first person in his family to get a matric, he had the potential to change their lives.

A friend who saw him studying under a street light in a Durban park where he lived out in the open, offered him shelter in a shack in the bush.

And, finally, his mother Thandekile Gumede, a single parent who did thankless piece jobs, and always believed in him getting an education.

Nsibande said his hopes of going to university straight after school were dampened by the Department of Home Affairs issuing him an identity document with his surname spelt incorrectly.

“That took a year to fix,” he said.

He has worked as a farm labourer, a petrol attendant, a hawker at a taxi rank and a pipe fitter, always sending money home while also saving for his studies, he said.

“I decided to then go to a technical and vocational education and training (Tvet) college in Newcastle to do a course in welding and boiler-making. I knew all about it, having been an assistant. I knew the work.

“There’s nothing I don’t know about steel pipes. I can make them at any angle. I just needed the papers. But they said I did not have a good enough maths mark to enter the course.”

Nsibande turned to accounting, which had been his favourite subject at high school, and eventually, enrolled for his certificate at Unisa, often sleeping at a central Durban garage to be near the institution’s facilities where he could go online.

“You need an education and a qualification to get a decent job,” he said, adding that he was someone who did not have it in him to give up.

“It was my mom who taught me that,” he said.

Mala Suriah, the chief marketing officer of Fundi, said that when the company heard about Nsibande and how he had continued to pursue his dream of studying despite everything, it immediately wanted to help.

“We were all so touched and inspired by his resilience and determination. His story also speaks directly to our own internal response to Covid-19, namely a campaign we’ve titled ‘challenge accepted’.

“This is an invitation to all of our team members and stakeholders to step-up and make an extraordinary contribution during this time.”

The Independent on Saturday

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