Dibueng Bosman hopes more than anything that her mother will still be alive when she graduates and achieves career success. Her mom is 65 and retired at the beginning of the year to live in a village in Rustenburg, North west, having worked for 40 years as a domestic worker in Lonehill, Johannesburg. She waited for Dibueng to start university before taking her time to rest.
“My father passed away in 2000 and my younger brother died in 2008. So my sister and I we were raised by my mother single-handedly, in a small back room owned by the family she worked for. Although she didn’t earn much, she gave me everything. She is the reason I am who I am today,” says Dibueng. Now in her second year of a marketing management degree at the University of Pretoria and staying in residence, she has set her sights on doing honours, and is researching companies she’d ideally like to work for. Despite her family’s modest means, Dibueng went to good Johannesburg schools. She started off at Bryanston Parallel Medium, a public school that subsidised her, then went to high school at Brescia House in Sandton, which awarded her a bursary.
“I loved school. I used to fight with my mother to not miss one day, because we all know that that day will be the best day,” says Dibueng.
She admits that it was tough socially at Brescia because she initially felt out of place. “It was hard to keep up with everyone’s expensive social life, but my mother always reminded me that school was all that mattered. When I got to Grade 9 I realised that everyone accepted me, regardless of my background.”
Her accounting teacher, Mrs McLachlan, played a huge role in pushing Dibueng forward. “I don’t think she actually realises the magnitude of the impact she had on not just me but the school as a whole. If it was not for her recognising my potential, I would not be at the University of Pretoria,” she says.
Determined to get a scholarship, as she had no other way to pay university fees, she worked hard through Grade 11 and matric.
“At first, I wanted to be a doctor, only because my cousin is one, then I wanted to be a chef, then an architect. Only at the end of Grade 11 did I feel that marketing was a field I might just enjoy,” says Dibueng.
In her matric year, she was elected head girl. “That just made my whole high school experience!” she says. She was popular and sociable, she says, so to avoid asking her mother for pocket money, she worked part-time in a bistro during matric. She registered at Tukkies not knowing how she was going to finance her studies. But in the middle of orientation week, she heard she’d received a Moshal scholarship. “It was like a dream. I’m still shocked that I have this amazing opportunity. And all I have to do in return is 'pay it forward'. I think it will become clear to me how I can do this once I’ve graduated,” she says.
Dibueng is suited to marketing as she is an extrovert. “I always want to meet new people and hear new stories. I see it as learning something new each time.” Still, she felt homesick when she started university because it was the first time in 18 years that she and her mother had been apart for more than a month.
“I made sure I was in a routine and tried not to break it. Routine is good, otherwise one gets lost. And whenever I doubted my capability of making it through, I reminded myself that if others had done it, why couldn't I.”Last year, despite the disruptive #FeesMustFall campaign, she was chosen as the top marketing management student. This year, she is on her residence’s house committee.
“My mother constantly tells me she is unbelievably proud and that I amaze her more and more. My cousins tell me to keep up my efforts, and their children are starting to look up to me. It’s not every day that you hear of a domestic worker’s child accomplishing so much,” says Dibueng.
Still, she admits that in her low moments she worries about the future. “Worry is inevitable. I worry I won’t be able to provide for my mom. Worst of all, I worry that my mom might die before she sees my overall success,” she says.
However, Dibueng believes she’s an optimist and that’s what has got her so far. “I am also always looking at the positives of situations when everyone else thinks there are none.” And the way her future looks right now, it doesn't look like she needs to try too hard.