Anele Bani

As the first member of his family to get a degree, Anele Bani knows education is the key to fulfilling his undeniable potential

“I had no choice, I had to be a chartered accountant (CA),” says Anele Bani who’s currently completing his Postgraduate Diploma in Accountancy at Rhodes University. Having attained 100% for accounting in Matric, his aptitude for the subject was obvious.

Yet Anele initially struggled at school. “I barely passed Grade 8 and 9,” he says. “So, in Grade 10 I took only commercial subjects and maths literacy.” Here, he found his niche. “From Grade 10 to 12, if the teacher wasn’t in class, I’d be the one teaching the kids! I decided I wanted to be an accounting teacher.”

However, Anele’s teacher steered him towards a career as a CA. “There are many unemployed teachers in Port Elizabeth, where I’m from,” says Anele. “My teacher said that as much as you need to follow something that you’re passionate about, back home it’s going to be hard to get a job as a teacher. Coming from a disadvantaged background, I need to get a well-paying job. I wasn’t aware of what CA’s were, but when I got to Rhodes I learned more and knew I was on the right path.”

Rising to the challenge

Although he was easily accepted to Rhodes, Anele needed support to make his dream a reality. While he attained the second highest matric results in PE at the end of 2014, a full government scholarship was only given to the learner who finished first. So, he got assistance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). “When I went to speak to the financial aid worker at Rhodes, he asked if I had funding since I had such great marks,” recalls Anele. “He told me about the Moshal Scholarship and referred me for an interview. Afterwards I was told to call my mom and tell her not to ever worry about my fees again because I got the scholarship. I was so happy. At the time, NSFAS wasn’t giving any extra pocket money so I was just taking showers in clean water because I couldn’t afford soap! Moshal really came to my rescue.”

Anele also had to fight to pursue an accounting degree since he’d only done Maths Literacy at high school and Maths was a requirement for his course. Yet because of his excellent matric results, the university made an exception and he passed all his mathematical subjects. Yet, while he attained his undergraduate degree with relative ease, he failed his postgraduate studies last year and is currently repeating the year.

“Through this I learned a lot – I discovered who I really am and learned perseverance. It’s amazing that the Moshal scholarship has continued to fund me because they said I’d shown such great potential through the years. My lecturer who failed twice himself said, as long as you reach the finish line, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you. He told me I have stubborn faith – as a Christian, I never give up.”

A place to call home

It’s this stubborn faith that’s helped Anele to overcome often-challenging circumstances. “Growing up, there weren’t good opportunities for me,” he recalls. “My father died in 2004, leaving my mom alone to raise six boys. When he died, we discovered that our house wasn’t his and we were chased out. We even spent two nights in a forest in the bushes because we had nowhere to go.”

The family then slept at their church and later moved in with Anele’s aunt in a township called Ikamvelihle. When Anele’s aunt later passed on, Anele and his family were again cast out. “Fortunately, my mom is a domestic worker and she saves a lot especially through stokvels. She managed to get herself an RDP house– that’s where we’re at now.”

Anele believes that academics offered him the opportunities he’s now enjoying. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re the only one at home who values the importance of education,” he says. “Because of the situation, most of my older brothers decided to just quit school and look for jobs. I was just fortunate enough to be a bit younger and remain in school. I’m the only one with a degree at home.”

“At first my family didn’t buy into the idea of me going to university, they said it takes too long – you should get a job now. But when I graduated, they came to Rhodes for the first time and they were so amazed. They believe in me now,” he laughs.

Giving back

Anele’s actively working to uplift his community. “The Moshal scholarship has further motivated me to succeed, but even more than that it’s always taught us about giving back, without expecting anything in return.”

On the advice of his pastor, Anele has started a tutoring initiative in Ikamvelihle. “I teach the kids accounting and maths. As I’m going higher and higher with my life, I should also be pulling up the people I know who are struggling. People like me who’ve actually experienced the benefits of education are best placed to motivate kids. The pastor and I started a trust fund, to raise money to do projects like start up small businesses for the youth in my community, to build libraries, and so on. I’ve managed to get the trust lawyers and auditors and some donors. That’s where I see myself in the future, having my own business that will help my community and others that are struggling in SA.”

Anele’s favourite quote from motivational speaker, Les Brown, epitomises the philosophy he lives by: “To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do, to have the things tomorrow others won’t have.”