Born with one leg shorter than the other, Judith Mdaka is used to being underestimated. Yet, it’s her disability that’s the driving force behind her determination to succeed.
Currently in her second year of studies towards her actuarial science degree at the University of the Free State, Judith has always had an aptitude for maths. “When I got my results, actuarial science seemed like the career for me, especially as there are relatively few people doing it and I’m so passionate about numbers,” she says.
Growing up in the rural village of Muwaweni in Limpopo, Judith was sent to boarding school. “My mom and dad are both domestic workers and they’re passionate about getting me a good education,” she says. “Where I come from, a lot of people don’t go to university. My mom wanted me to be one of the examples in the village so I could inspire others by telling them about my experiences. I also wanted to be able to help them and my brother and my sister by earning a living. I’m a hard worker and I always put what is important first, especially education.”
Becoming an example
Being accepted to do actuarial science was especially exciting for Judith. Applying for and being awarded the Moshal scholarship took her one step closer to making her dream a reality. While she says juggling the work has been a challenge, Judith is more than up to the task especially with the support the program provides. “Moshal are so supportive and helpful with whatever you need – they provide more than just financial and academic support.”
Judith strongly believes in what Moshal stands for. For her, giving back is not only a core Moshal value, it’s a principal that’s had a massive impact on her life. “When I reached high school, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to boarding school so someone else paid my fees,” she says. The fact that her education was funded by this donor lit a fire of altruism in Judith’s heart. “When I finish my studies, I want to do something like that because someone did it for me. I’d love to be a part of a non-profit-organisation even if it’s not about giving money but rather about giving my time or inspiring others. I’ll never forget that people sacrificed a lot for me to be here.”
Mosal’s other values which include hard work, integrity and perseverance are all already part of who Judith is. With plans to pursue her honours degree, Judith’s determined to rise to the challenges and opportunities her chosen career offers.
A strong support system
While she may have needed financial support throughout her academic career, Judith’s never lacked emotional support from the people that matter most. “My parents want more for me,” she says. “They’re so excited that I’m at university. They make sure that I have any support I need, and they help wherever they can. They want me to succeed and to get a degree.”
Judith’s sister has also been a strong support. “People may look down on you because of your disability but she taught me that if you have faith in yourself, they will admire you,” says Judith.
During her years of schooling, it was also a doctor who helped inspire and push Judith to fulfil her considerable potential when she was being underestimated. “He taught me that even if you’re struggling, you’ll still get where you are going – you are the one who decides. He helped move me to mainstream schooling.”
A self-proclaimed go getter, Judith fights for what she wants. It’s her disability that’s in fact given her such determination to succeed. “Seeing other disabled people staying in the streets, or at home, made me want to be different. Some of them keep themselves hidden, never going out or doing what they love because they’re afraid of what people will say. That’s why I want to do something with my life. I want to be an example so that the disabled can see that even with our disabilities we can accomplish anything.”
“I’ve learned that I mustn’t let my past determine my future,” she concludes. “I’m the one who has the key to determine what I want in the future. It doesn’t matter what kind of background or situation you come from, what matters is what you do with what you’ve been given. Are you going to stay in a difficult situation or are you going to change it?” Judith’s own answer to this question is crystal clear.