Becoming Dr Andy shows missing middle capable of great strides

Andiswa Bhiya at the DSTV Content Creators Award show.

Andiswa Bhiya at the DSTV Content Creators Award show.

Published Mar 16, 2024


With an estimated 3 600 000 likes on the TikTok social media platform, medical student Andiswa Bhiya continues to show that even students from the missing middle can soar to greater heights with just a little bit of a boost.

Heralded at the recent DStv Content Creators Awards for her knowledge-based content on her journey to becoming a medical doctor, Bhiya has shown that with a little bit of help one can make a huge impact and inspire thousands across the country.

The fourth-year medical student is one of thousands of students who fall within the missing-middle category in South Africa every year, which, as of 2024, was standing at 68 446.

The concept of the missing middle has gained currency within the South African post-school education and training (PSET) sector in recent years, as thousands battle with funding.

The term represents those too wealthy to benefit from National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding, however,F they still struggle to afford higher education. The missing middle currently refers to those students from households with incomes between R350 000 and R600 000.

Bhiya, the third of four children raised by a single mother in a village in Mpumalanga, decided to pursue her medical degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) despite not having secured any funding for her studies.

“I came to UCT without funding and my mom did not have money at that time either. We went to NSFAS to ask for funding, but they told me that because my mother earns above a certain amount (R350,000 per annum) I did not qualify to receive funding,” she said.

Bhiya recalled how the first five months of her university career were consumed with worry about where she would get the money that she needed to pay her tuition fees.

“I did not know how I was going to pay for my studies until a month before my fees were due, when I got word from Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme Foundation (ISFAP). I just got an email, and it said, ‘congratulations, we'd like to offer you a bursary’, and all I could remember was feeling such relief and joy,” she said.

During her fourth year she started creating video content on TikTok, without even thinking that her story and journey to becoming a doctor would inspire thousands across the country and world.

“I recorded a video about what a day in the life of a UCT medical student is like. People responded by asking me about getting into med-school. As I began answering their questions, my video started getting a lot of views. That’s when I realised that there’s a gap in information. So, I decided to be intentional about creating content to educate and inform people who want to be doctors, hoping that they might be inspired by my story,” she said.

“I want to do a school tour where I visit schools in South Africa, giving motivational talks to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, answering questions, and sharing my journey of becoming Dr Andy. I want to encourage teenagers from every corner to stay in school and take it seriously. It might not seem like the coolest thing to do, but as years go by, it really does pay off,” Bhiya said.

ISFAP CEO Morné du Toit said Bhiya’s story was a testament to what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.

Du Toit said the organisation, founded on the backdrop of the #FeesMustFall riots, was pleased to offer her, and other missing-middle students the resources needed to pursue their university degrees.

Saturday Star

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