Carol Ndlovu came top of her matric class in 2014, but despite Wits University accepting her to study a BSc in Biological Science in 2015, she spent that year at home because she couldn't afford the fees.
When she was offered a Moshal Scholarship to study in 2016, she was ecstatic, but was stressed from day one that she might do something to lose her scholarship.
When Carol, 20, saw Martin Moshal speak at her first Moshal Scholarship weekend in July 2016, she realised she really had far more to be happy and grateful about than she did to be sad and stressed. “Seeing and hearing him was life-changing,” she says. “It made me realise just how lucky I am. Here is a man – who doesn't even know me – who has given me the chance for a better future. I was not going to lose my scholarship because I was going to get the help I needed,” she says.
Carol was born in Diepsloot to a very young Zimbabwean mother who battled to make ends meet. She worked as a waitress until Carol was in grade three, when she started doing piece jobs as a domestic worker so she could look after Carol in the evenings. “She was scared to leave me in Diepsloot, even if the lady next door agreed to watch over me,” she says. “She did her best to provide for me and sacrificed so much for me.”
In 2005, her mother gave birth to a son and, believing it was the best for Carol, she sent her to live with her grandmother in rural Zimbabwe. “I couldn’t help thinking she didn’t want me anymore.”
In Zimbabwe, she lived in a home with no electricity or water and had to walk 45 minutes to school every day. “I always left early because if I was late, I would be punished with a stick.” Before she left, she had to make a fire for her grandmother and when she got home, she had fetch water before cooking a meal.
At the end of 2007, she returned to Diepsloot to start Grade 6 and moved in with her aunt who had more space than her mother. She would only see her mother sometimes on weekends. “I got very close to my aunt and would sometimes call her mom and my mom by her name.”
By the end of Grade 6, Carol got five As and continued to excel at school. “I always knew education was key to a better life and I was dedicated to my studies despite bullying,” she says. The girls at her school teased and bullied her, both because of her Zimbabwean heritage and because she always did so well. “There were times I wished teachers wouldn’t call out our marks in class because it meant I would get mocked. If I got the pronunciation of a word wrong in Zulu, they would call me a kwerekwere (derogatory term for a foreigner) and tell me to go back home.”
Carol followed her aunt’s advice to remember who you are and where you are going and just kept working hard, doing the right thing and eventually her social life at school improved.
Carol was drawn to a career in science. “I love watching medical detectives on television and I so want to solve crimes with my science,” she says.
In Grade 10, she finally moved back to her mother and brother and continued to work “for awards”, knowing she had to get a bursary because her mother couldn’t pay for university.
Carol mistakenly believed that the science and maths learning project she attended in matric also provided a bursary, so she didn’t apply for another bursary. She discovered the truth when she was already accepted to university. In desperation, she applied for a National Students Financial Aid Scheme loan and her mother borrowed almost R5000 to cover half the registration fee which meant she could register. “I already had my student card when I heard I wasn’t getting a loan. I was devastated. I had to deregister for the year.
“I cried and cried. I had worked so hard, was a top achiever and now I have to stay at home…”
In 2015, she went all out to secure a bursary and also managed to secure an NSFAS loan.. Shortly after Christmas, however, she got a call, welcoming her as a Moshal Scholar. “I was so excited, although after my bad luck I was worried that it was a joke.”
As with most first year students, Carol had a baptism by fire. She called on Shanaaz Randeria, her Moshal psychosocial coordinator for advice and help with a timetable. “She was so kind and encouraging and really guided me in how to work best at university,” she says. But she was stressed and worried about marks.
Only when she eventually watched Martin Moshal give his speech did she know she just had to do her best.
Now in her second year, she is taking one step at a time. “I just need to focus and do what needs to be done,” she says. “I am so grateful for the Moshal Scholarship, because they care. I have everything I need to do well and make something of myself and that is what I will do.”
She wasn’t quite sure what she would do when she was finished her degree, but whatever it is, she was to be able to give some of her income back to the Moshal Scholarship Program to help other people.
“More than anything, I want to be able to tell my mom that she can stop working because I will look after her. She has worked so hard for me, I really want to be able to give her the gift she gave me,” Carol says.