When Nontsikelelo Mdontsane was born in Soweto in 1996, her mother was little older than she is now. Despite becoming a single parent at 21, her mother proved to be an impressive role model and mentor because she doing whatever it took to ensure her daughter got a high-quality education.
Ntsiki, as her friends call her, is now a second-year BCom student at Rhodes University and has made it onto the dean of commerce’s merit list and the international Golden Key Society (for those whose results are in the top 15%).
“My grandparents were disappointed with my mom and refused to help her bring me up,” Ntsiki says. “My mother is a determined woman, who works extremely hard and never complains. My father was a soldier who didn’t stick around long.”
Ntsiki excelled and in Grade 6, she was one of six scholars at her township school offered a place at the private German School in Johannesburg. She had to turn it down because her mother could not afford to pay 50% of the fees as required.
When her mother got a better-paying job, she sent Ntsiki to a really good private school, McAuley House, in Johannesburg. “My mom felt it would be best for me because people from township schools find it hard to make it in the world and she believed scholars are more motivated in town schools.”
“Seeing her struggling and working so hard motivated me to do my best. She acted like everything was under control, but I could see what she was going through.”
When Ntsiki was in high school she read a newspaper article about a young chartered accountant and decided that was the perfect career for her. “I didn’t really like science, but I loved accounting and business and I was good at them.”
Ntsiki consistently did well at school and had lots of friends. “I loved my school, it was a warm and caring place and, although we all came from different backgrounds, when we were together we forgot our differences,” she says.
Her final two years at school could have been derailed when her mother was retrenched, but, amazingly, she managed to pay not only the fees but for a matric dance outfit.
But there wasn’t any money left for university. This didn’t deter Ntsiki, who was accepted to do a BCom at Rhodes. She applied for numerous bursaries, telling her mother: “I am going to Rhodes and I will work so hard that you won’t have to pay,” she said.
Despite her five distinctions, no bursaries were forthcoming. She did secure a loan from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. In March, the university’s financial aid department told her to fill out forms for a Moshal Scholarship. “When Inez (Woods) from the Moshal Scholarship Program called and told me I actually had this scholarship, I was ecstatic. By that stage I had done my research and found out just how amazing this particular scholarship was. I was so relieved that my mother didn’t have to worry anymore.
“Being part of the Moshal Scholarship Program meant I was around people who motivated me and who came from the same kind of background as me. Whenever I am with the other scholars and see how well they are doing, I think, 'If they can do so well so can I'.”
And she does. Not only was she recognised by the Dean and the Golden Key society after her first year, she was also elected the head student in her residence, unusual for a second-year.
She also makes time to tutor other students and mentor township pupils.
Although still far from qualifying as a CA, Ntsiki dreams of having her own business doing books for small companies. She also wants to start an organisation to help young boys. “There seems to be so much focus on girls these days, so I want to enable boys to become contributing members of our society.”
As for her mother, who recently turned 40, she couldn't be prouder of her 19-year-old CA-in-training.