Currently doing his honours in computer science at UKZN, Richard Mutembereza is committed to building a career that will allow him to leave a legacy. Having grown up in a children’s home, he knows that hard work is the key to creating a brighter future.
“I grew up in Malvern Children’s home in KZN,” says Richard. “There were kids from everywhere with 10 to 12 people living in the house. As much as it was fun to be together, there were also rough times. I was there for from 4 to my matric year.” Despite the challenges he faced, Richard is grateful to the home. “They helped me get to where I am now,” he says.
It was the fact that he was from a children’s home that made Richard so determined to succeed and go to university. “It’s very hard for you to build something,” he says, “so, I’ve always tried to turn the tide. I believe you can do anything no matter what background you come from. I’ve always tried to prove that to myself and other people. It was very important to me to try to go to university and build something.”
Something to leave behind
A long-held passion for technology propelled Richard towards a computer science degree. “I’ve always been interested in computers, since the first time I used one,” he says. “Technology’s been fascinating to me. I’ve always wanted to know how things operate. Whenever I got something technological, I would always try and figure out how it worked.”
Building a career that provides a stable income is Richard’s driving force. “I want to be able to live off the income that I get,” he says. “After graduating I want to start working. I’ll hopefully start building my career and in future I hope to start something of my own.”
For Richard, entrepreneurship is all about taking control of his destiny. “As an African, I need to have something for myself to build on. I want to leave a legacy, for my future and for the future of my kids. It’s important to have something that you built yourself, something you can leave behind.”
Richard may have spent most of his life in a children’s home, but he wasn’t without family. “I have two brothers who I grew up with,” he says. It’s through the example of Richard’s older brother that education has come to mean so much to him. “My older brother has been an inspiration to me, he finished his masters last year. He went to varsity before me and pretty much paved the way for me. He gave me all the advice that I needed.”
Moshal also lit the way and allowed Richard to pursue his academic ambitions. “In my first year at varsity I had to find people to fund me, I asked for help from foundations and churches. During that first year, the school sent us an email about the Moshal Scholarship. I took the opportunity and applied.” After being rejected by most of the other bursaries he’d applied for, Richard didn’t have very high hopes. “At the beginning of the next year, I got the phone call from Moshal telling me that I’d been accepted. I was amazed especially since I’d been turned down by a lot of other programmes.”
The fact that Moshal give you all you need at university was an eye-opener for Richard. “I grew up not having a lot of support, so it means a lot to have the support from Moshal.They give you emotional support – you can speak to one of the alumni, or the coordinators whenever you have troubles. They also teach you important skills to help you get along in daily life, not only in school but also throughout your life and career. They prepare you for the workplace and not only provide support during university but also afterwards.”
Never give up
The Moshal values of integrity and perseverance really resonate with Richard. “Throughout everything that happens in your life, you just need to keep going,” he says. “Keep pushing forward, you can’t give up.”
As someone who benefitted from the kindness of strangers, Richard’s determined to pay it forward. “I’d love to go back to the home that I was in one day and try and give back there. At the moment, together with other Moshal scholars, I go and help out at a baby home and facilitate activities.”
“To people who grow up in a similar situation to me, I’d say, you mustn’t give up,” he concludes. “You mustn’t throw away hope because anything is possible. Just work hard, hard work pays off. I always say: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.””