In 2012, former Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) call centre operator, Vatiswa Zwelibanzi, answered a call from Bulelani, who desperately wanted to study at NMMU. However, he did not have the money required for the application fee, let alone a year of tuition.
Vatiswa was so moved by Bulelani’s story that she went beyond the call of duty and assisted him in getting into NMMU.
“I saw potential in his Matric results and encouraged him to apply, however to my surprise, he sent two application forms, his own and his brother Masande’s, who was in matric at the time,” said Vatiswa.
With the help of her then manager Christelle Feyt, application fees, NSFAS funding and acceptance into the NDip Agriculture programme were secured for both brothers.
“Bulelani took the first step by calling and showing determination that, despite not having any money, he wanted to study. His cry for help made more than just a noise in my ears, it touched my heart,” she said.
When the brothers arrived in Port Elizabeth from their rural village in the former Transkei they had no money, food, bedding or toiletries and only a few items of clothing. Vatiswa, who has two children of her own, bought them the necessities and housed them until their residences opened.
“Fortunately I received my annual bonus that month and my church, Pawulos Oyingcwele Catholic Church in Motherwell also assisted with a financial contribution,” said Vatiswa, who felt the need to give back since she was also assisted by family while she was studying.
The brothers’ single mother, who did odd domestic jobs to support her four children, sometimes earned as little as R200 a week.
“Coming to university was a dream come true for us, we wanted to study to take our mother out of poverty. That is what drove us and gave us the courage. Even if we didn’t know where we were going to, we were going to have to fight,” said Bulelani, who had never left Qumbu before.
The brothers, who had never touched a computer in their lives before, found the academic work quite challenging, but through the support of staff in the Science Faculty, their mother proudly witnessed them receive their National Diploma in Agriculture ysterday morning.
The brothers also made special mention of postgraduate Chemistry student Peter Lee, who generously assisted them in their time of need.
“We chose to study Agriculture because we come from a rural area where people are starving, they have the land but don’t know how to utilise it. We want to apply for land and go back to our village to help educate our community,” said Bulelani.
The brothers are currently both registered to complete their BTech in Agriculture and with assistance, were able to secure NRF funding for their studies.
“I don’t know what would have happened if my phone call was not answered by a helpful and caring lady like Vatiswa. We were also assisted by so many generous people in our faculty, they are the reason why we are here today, the reason why we can bring hope to our family,” said Bulelani.
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