Determination Is My Best Asset
Mvuyisi Ngaleka, 21, is a man of theories and formulas, a love for numbers that has moulded him into the determined person he is today. He shares his story of success with us, that began with a poverty stricken childhood that gave him life lessons he uses today as he works his way to a career in accountancy.
Growing up, Mvuyisi had a rough start in life as he was born into a family of need, his parents were married at the time and were struggling to support their family of four. Living in a rural town in the Eastern Cape, Mvuyisi says that he was not aware of the troubles at home because he was really young. But a time he does remember was at age six when his parents divorced and he moved with his mother, grandparents, aunt, uncle and three cousins to Cape Town.
“We moved to Site C in Khayelitsha into a very small shack, we were many people (9) living there, so there was no space for all of us. I remember it being very crowded,” says Mvuyisi.
Moving had its challenges for the whole family, and they all struggled to find work. Mvuyisi’s mom became the breadwinner supporting the family with the money she earned with irregular work as a domestic worker.
Mvuyisi says he realised the severity of the situation when he and his sister did not attend school like all their neighborhood friends.
“I asked my mom why we weren’t going to school and she told me that there was no money for it. I remember just sitting on the cold floor and crying. My older sister (8) was with me and she really helped me. She would try and make me feel better by playing with me, especially in the morning when we watched all the other kids go to school.”
Mvuyisi says that he remembers waking up early in the morning and for some reason he would go outside and just watch all of the children go to school.
“I wanted to go with them badly, I would always imagine what it would be like to go to school. I think I thought by waking up early like they did I was doing something similar to my friends who were on their way to school.”
He adds that a moment he remembers strongly was when he attended church on Sundays and would hear the other children pray to pass their subjects and he would pray to pass too.
“I laugh about it today, because it makes no sense now, but I guess at that time it made sense to me. Maybe I would pray to go to school too. But I mostly remember asking to pass at school.”
Two years would pass before Mvuyisi would start Grade 1 at the age of 9, when his aunt came to Cape Town and fetched him and his sister to return with her to the Eastern Cape where they started school the day they arrived.
“I realise now that I have learned so much during those hard years. My attitude towards school was formed at that time. When I started school the teacher said I need to do Grade 1 for two to three years in order to adapt to a system that was foreign to me. I remember telling myself that there was no way I was going to be kept back any longer. So I worked hard and after a year the teacher said I was ready for the next grade.”
From that point, Mvuysi would stay at the top of his class and use what he learned at school to help his classmates. With his dad having a full time job working at a fruit and veg shop, life was easier in the Eastern Cape.
After completing Grade 8 while living with his father, his parents decided to send him to school in Cape Town, because they believed Cape Town’s level of education was better.
“When I returned to Khayelitsha I noticed that many of the kids that I watched go to school had dropped out and turned into thugs* – this really made me think and surprisingly be thankful for my hard times.”
He adds that he was taught the value of education without anyone telling me why it is valuable. “I made sure I dedicated myself to study in order to achieve my dream of becoming an Economist.”
In Grade 11 when Mvuyisi received his first career guidance session from an organisation in his community, he realised that he had the wrong subjects for his choice of career. “I felt crushed, no one had ever explained to me that taking maths literacy* instead of pure maths would make such a difference to my future. To realise that no university will accept me to do Economics was heart-breaking.”
Despite all the advise he received guiding him to change his career option, Mvuyisi was determined that a faulty education system was not going to hold him back from his dream. He continued with his plans and in his last year of high school he applied to universities with his first career choice.
“All universities rejected me and I found myself with nothing to do in the year post matric. I had heard that the Cape Peninsula University of Cape Town (CPUT) offered a National Higher Education Certificate in Accountancy that did not require pure maths. So, in the same manner that as a child I prayed to pass school when I was not even studying, I went to CPUT and queued with the students that had been accepted and where registering for the year.”
“I queued for weeks, going from one office to another, explaining my situation to people asking them for a chance. My family and friends kept telling me that I just should give up, go back to the Eastern Cape and find a job.”
After a few months of persistence, Mvuyisi was informed that he had finally been accepted to substitute a learner that had just dropped-out. “I couldn’t believe that my determination had paid off. I was delayed three months of classes but it did not make any difference, from the first day at university I dedicated myself extra hard and caught-up with the time I missed quickly.”
Mvuyisi is currently studying the National Higher Education Certificate in Accountancy at CPUT. He concludes by saying, “I have learned that the true key to success is determination. When people ask me what is my biggest asset, I always reply by saying my attitude towards believing that my dreams are a reality. I behave today as if my dreams have already been achieved, the belief that I am an Accountant makes me behave as an accountant even though I am only in my first year at university.”
Mvuyisi is a Leaders’ Quest Alumni
*Thugs – a violent person, especially a criminal
*Maths literacy – Two mathematical subjects are offered in SA schools: Pure Maths and Mathematical Literacy. It is compulsory to take one or the other. Pure Maths is normal Maths, a subject required for any science or finance career. Mathematical Literacy is a subject that uses mathematical concepts, and applies them to everyday situations but it is not regarded as a proper mathematical subject. Some schools in the township opt to only offer Maths Literacy to their students as they believe their students don’t have the capacity to pass Pure Maths.