Bukiwe Gwebityala


‘Kunzima namhlanje kodwa ingomso liyakubhelele – It might be hard today but tomorrow will be better’. This is the motto of a young girl who faces daily challenges, where many people would have given up. Bukiwe Gwebityala, 18, has touched our hearts for the determination she has shown despite living in a child headed household and the loss of a close sibling.

‘All my life I have lived in a hostel in Gugulethu. Growing up was challenging, as there were five of us living in one room. Despite the conditions, we survived ‘. Two years ago, Bukiwe’s sister was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died just a few months later, ‘my eldest sister was my rock, she was the one person in the family I could talk to, so when she passed it was heart breaking for me to accept it.’ As a result of this tragedy, Bukiwe’s only parent, her mother, moved to the Eastern Cape to take care of her sister’s four children.  This decision was taken by the family, based on the assumption that it was safer and cheaper to raise four boys in the Eastern Cape. ‘Leaving my mother behind after the funeral was tough, I had just lost my sister and now it felt like I had also lost my only parent, even though I understood the decision’.

Bukiwe’s brother who was only 19 at the time, took on the responsibility for the family in Cape Town. ‘My brother does his best to support us, he works hard to provide but he is also supporting my mother back in the Eastern Cape. He was still young and it was a big responsibility for him to take on. There were many times when we had no food and we would have to ask others for help. A big challenge was when there was no money for transport to school.’ On these days Bukiwe would walk two hours to get to her school in Athlone, to ensure that she got to classes, ‘if I didn’t walk for myself who will.’

Bukiwe has struggled with school performance for many years, ’no-one in my family completed school so I have never had anyone who could assist me with my work. I am the first one to make it to matric. My desire to break the cycle has motivated me to not give up on my education’. Her passion for education has also fueled Bukiwe’s desire to work with children, ‘I want to become a teacher, I have seen how the lack of education can hold someone back. I want to make sure that South Africa’s children are educated so that they can succeed.’

When we asked Bukiwe what advice she would give to others she said, ‘remember you are not the only one going through the same thing, there are others like you. Only you can motivate yourself and turn a negative story into a positive one.’

Bukiwe is a Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices.

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