Mbalenhle Ntuli believes that the opportunities she’s had were meant to be shared. While she plans to one day become a doctor, she’s also dedicated to uplifting her family and community along the way.
“It wasn’t by chance that I was the one chosen to have this opportunity. I’m now able to change my family’s life,” says Mbalenhle speaking of becoming a Moshal Scholar. Now in her second year of BSc human life science and biology studies at Stellenbosch University, Mbalenhle is proving the value of a good education. Yet, academic opportunities came to her long before she reached university.
“I grew up in a farm area in Eshowe, KZN,” she says. “My mom had me at a very young age, so my grandmother initially took care of me while my mom went to work.” Beginning her schooling in the farm community she lived in, Mbalenhle was given a priceless chance in grade one. “My mom is a domestic worker and one of her boss’s friends ran a school and said I could go there for free.” The opportunity changed her life. “That was the first stepping stone,” she says. “It opened many doors to even greater schools and opportunities.”
“Since then, I’ve never had to pay for school fees,” continues Mbalenhle. “By God’s grace there’s always been someone who’s offered to pay for me. In high school, I got a scholarship to Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and in university I got the Moshal Scholarship. I never take learning lightly. I’m still learning and I’m here because other people believed in me.”
Mbalenhle is grateful that she’s been able to motivate so many young people especially within her family and community. “The younger generations dream a lot. Now they also want to be doctors and I’ve heard some say they want to do engineering.” Their minds are expanding through Mbalenhle’s example, which opens doors for them too. “It’s bigger than just me, it’s affecting other people as well,” she says. “It was planned by God.”
Mbalenhle also knows the value of humility. “My mom always told me that when you are lifted up in life, it’s your job to lift up those around you. You’re never blessed to be blessed by yourself, you have to help other people. She always reminds me to be humble and to remember where I come from.”
Taking that lesson to heart, Mbalenhle plans to use the Moshal principle of paying it forward to uplift her community. “I know how education has changed my life, so I’d love to contribute towards or go back to the schools on the farm,” she says. “I’d like to start an initiative or club offering extracurricular activities.”
Mbalenhle learnt the value of such activities at high school. “I grew and learnt about teamwork. I played many sports and was even able to learn an instrument. At the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, they taught us that just because you’re good at sports and cultural activities, doesn’t mean you can’t be good at academics too. The biggest thing was becoming an all-rounded learner. Extracurricular activities really open your mind so they’re something I believe in. They’re a huge, positive distraction from the bad things that are happening in the community.”
Meant for medicine
Mbalenhle has a passion for helping others and always knew that she wanted to become a doctor. “At school, the teachers would speak that into existence, calling me Dr Mbali and telling me I needed to work hard,” she says. “Being in an environment where people believe in you is motivating.”
Mbalenhle is grateful for the academic support Moshal provides. “If you struggle with a subject, they’ll set up tutors. They have programme called Elevate that helps you with the different kind of study skills needed at university. They also provide you with the soft skills needed for the workplace.”
She’s currently doing her BSc and still plans to go to medical school. “I’m working towards attaining my dream of studying medicine and becoming a doctor,” she says. “I love helping people, especially children so I want to specialise in paediatrics. I also love science; it’s always come easily to me.”
“Anything is possible”
While she has a long road ahead, Mbalenhle remains focused on her end-goal. “I like doing community service and job shadowing at the hospital,” she says. “It also reminds me why I’m doing this. Going home and having my two younger brothers look up to me, also gives me the motivation I need. I like showing them that you have to keep going and not give up.”
Mbalenhle’s mother also motivates her, both through encouragement and through her example. “My mom may be a domestic worker, but she’s always wanted a car. Every day when we’d walk to school, she’d say, “one day I’m going to get a car.” She saved up for about ten years and now she has one. Anything is possible, truly.”