A bright, well-spoken and committed student, Teboho Mnguni almost had to abandon his university studies for lack of finances. He dropped out for two years and had to start his degree over again.
Money troubles thwarted Teboho’s university aspirations from the start. “I took a gap year in 2011 after matric because there was no money for me to study at Rosebank College, where I had been accepted to study a sports management degree.
“The following year was also a bumpy road. My granny was a pensioner by then so it was difficult at home. I was trying to raise money for university applications by doing piece jobs, like gardening and handing out pamphlets. Eventually, I was able to secure entrance to Unisa in 2013 to pursue a law degree,” he says.
Teboho passed 13 modules over two years, essentially making it to second-year LLB, but because he couldn’t raise the money to carry on, he dropped out in 2015. “It was a huge setback for me. I was down and out. I had to go back to the drawing board as my future was looking very bleak,” he recalls.
He persevered and clung to his dream, and in 2016, Teboho made a string of applications to various universities, this time set on becoming a full-time student. He managed to secure two admissions, to the University of Free State and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), in Port Elizabeth. With the help of the Moshal Scholarship Program, he started afresh this year as a first-year law student at NMMU.
“My friend Sfiso Nxumalo, a Moshal scholar at Wits, was aware of my dilemma of trying to secure finance. He told me about the scholarship programme. When I got a call saying I was accepted I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was filled with joy and reflected deeply on how far I had come. The scholarship is one of the best things ever to have happened in my life,” he says.
Teboho was born in Daveyton township in Ekurhuleni and when he was only three months old his mother died. He never knew his father and was raised by his maternal grandmother. “My aunts and uncles also played a role, but my grandmother is my rock to this day. She is literally the mother I never had, a warm, caring, true African strong woman whom I hold in high regard.”
His primary school years were unsettled – Teboho moved from place to place. “While my grandmother was a domestic worker in Randburg I went to Boskop Primary, then for grades 2 to 4, I was in Daveyton staying with my uncle and attending Tshipo-Noto Primary in Benoni. For Grade 5, I was staying with a friend of my grandmother and attending a different school again,” he says.
Finally, his grandmother came back to settle permanently in Leachville, Brakpan, and Teboho moved in with her to complete grades 6 and 7 at Kgothalang Primary School. He spent his high school years at Ephes Mamkeli Secondary in Wattville, Benoni.
“I moved a lot but it didn’t affect my progress at school, even though I was shy and scared to speak up in class. Wherever I was, I was received with love and treated well,” he says.
Teboho excelled at sport, particularly soccer, which is why he set his sights on studying sports management. “My soccer coaches would make sure I never missed matches, and they even tried to convince my grandmother to let me play, as she was totally against that, wanting me to stay indoors and focus on my books.”
After matric, and while he was seeking admission to Unisa after attempts to get into a sport career through Rosebank College failed, Teboho swung to law as his preferred career choice. “I did some research into various careers and I came to the realisation that law was something I would be keen to study.”
He is in a four-year LLB degree course to finish in 2020, then he plans to further his studies overseas and enrol for an LLM (master's). “That way, before I serve my articles, I will be a step away from pursuing an LLD (doctorate).”
He says his family is “super stoked” about his achievements, and he attributes much of his resilience to their support.
“We all have mountains to climb and hurdles to overcome. I could easily have been a drug addict or joined a township gang or got sucked into a vacuum with the help of alcohol, the fastest dream-killing phenomenon in South Africa right now.
“I’ve had my fair share of difficulties, but I come out more determined to strive forward. I have come too far to give up, and I refuse to succumb when the opportunities of life are so plentiful and there for the taking,” he says.