Ntando Makhubela is fluent in Spanish and loves working with his Cuban patients. Picture: Twitter/@NtandoMakhubela
Ntando Makhubela is fluent in Spanish and loves working with his Cuban patients. Picture: Twitter/@NtandoMakhubela

LOOK: From petrol attendant to medical student

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Jun 19, 2020

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Cape Town - "It’s never impossible." These are the words of a young man from Mpumalanga province, South Africa, who went from being a petrol attendant to a medical student.

Ntando Makhubela, 23, did not have it easy growing up, but he knew he wanted to be a doctor. 

Living with his father through primary school, and his mother, a street vendor, during his high school years, he worked hard at reaching his goals. 

After matriculating, he was excited about pursuing his dreams but was met with disappointment and financial struggles. 

“Becoming a doctor has always been my dream. I fell in love with the biological sciences, which I found so intriguing and very relevant to the country, given the shortage of medical personnel.

“After completing my matric I was so excited with my results I had achieved, but I was then disappointed not to receive an offer to study medicine. 

“I was rather offered to study a bachelor of science, which I went to do for a few weeks, but I had to abandon that course because I couldn’t pay for it. My parents didn’t have that kind of money to pay for that course,” Makhubela said. 

The young man decided to look for a job as he knew he could not remain dependent on his parents. 

He found a job at the Engen Flamboyant garage in Rocky’s Drift, where he worked as a petrol attendant, not knowing this job would open doors for him he could only dream of. 

Ntando Makhubela used to be a petrol attendant before his dream of studying medicine came true. Picture: @NtandoMakhubela/Twitter


“One day at my workplace someone from the ANC Youth League recognised me and he was so disappointed to see me there as he knew I did well at school. 

“He approached me and asked why am I here. I explained to him what the circumstances were and he explained the Cuban programme to me. He looked for forms to apply, which he delivered at my workplace,” Makhubela says. 

He filled in the forms and was awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. 

“It was not a smooth ride. Throughout all my journey I’ve received immense support from my parents to put all the hard work and effort into my studies. 

“My family’s background kept me going. I am the first-born and I have six siblings who are all looking up to me.

“Coming to Cuba was a blessing in disguise and I’m overwhelmed by the opportunity offered by our government to the marginalised, downtrodden and ambitious young people in South Africa.

Ntando Makhubela is pursuing his dream of becoming a medical doctor. Picture: @NtandoMakhubela/Twitter


“I am currently studying at the Carlos J. Finlay University of Medical Sciences, Camagüey,” Makhubela said. 

During his first year, the determined student had to learn Spanish. Now in his fifth year in Cuba and starting his fifth year of study in September, he admits he is extremely homesick. 

“I last saw my family three years ago. I am due to visit them next month but it seems impossible because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I’m almost always homesick. I miss my family a lot and South African food and culture,” Makhubela said. 

After he completes his fifth year in July 2021, Makhubela will be returning home to complete his final year at a university where he will graduate. 

“Dedication and self-motivation keep me going. When life throws hardships and difficulties at me, I stand firmly to follow my dreams and I don’t let any failures along the way determine my destiny,” Makhubela said. 

He explains his vision for his future. 

“In years to come, I will be promoting primary health care and see to it that health is prioritised across the country to reach people in the deep rural areas and provide health education and development in such areas, providing people with insight into the lifestyle that relates directly to health. 

"Address the social and economic challenges that our masses are facing,” Makhubela said. 

He sees himself as the next Dr Zweli Mkhize, the current national health minister of South Africa. 

As Youth Month draws to a close in South Africa, Makhubela believes the relevance of telling his story could not come at a better time. 

“This month is relevant for me to bring hope to other fellows whose dreams and goals are set to be unreachable. 

“The youth of today is fighting a different battle, unemployment being at the highest peak, drug addiction and usage of other substances that are very alarming and harmful, and an increase in a number of drop-outs.”

He has a message for the youth of South Africa.

“To youth currently in matric, this is your last year in high school, give your all. 

“Make sure your results are good because those results can open a lot of doors for you. 

“To those sitting at home, everything has a time but go out there, look for jobs. Don’t limit yourself, still pursue your dreams. It is possible, it’s never too late.”

African News Agency/ANA

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