On the day Shafiya Sait graduated as a physiotherapist she lay on the rug-by field at Stellenbosch University and looked up at the sky with total gratitude. There is little about her journey that was easy, but she wakes up in the mornings happy.
This 29-year-old grew up in Mitchell’s Plain in the Western Cape with a drug dealer operating at one end of her street and a shebeen at the other.
Her father, a welder, and housewife mother
had little money but were very supportive. Although strict Muslims they sent her to a Christian school, telling her to be open-minded about other religions and to focus on her studies.
“My parents – neither of whom had matric – instilled in me the importance of get-ting a good education so I could have a better life than they did.”
excelled at almost everything she put her energy into – netball, athletics, drama, volleyball and the school choir. She made the provincial volleyball team and played against Botswana. “I believed sport would take me places and I wasn’t wrong, I got to Kimberley, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein and numerous other places.”
Shafiya’s parents made sure she didn’t neglect her studies. “Every day I would get home from school, have an egg or porridge and do my homework before I could go out to play. I was very strong in science, maths and biology. I wasn’t great with languages, perhaps it was my Mitchell’s Plain-speak, which includes English and Afrikaans all in one.” She came first or second in her class every year in primary school. She was also the top overall sportswoman in her school.
In high school, her marks weren’t quite as good, but she maintained her sporting prowess.
She fancied a number of career paths, including astronomy, laboratory work and graphic art, but it was when she was doing volunteer work with the elderly and working with children at the Red Cross hospital that her true path became obvious to her.
“I watched the physiotherapists helping the children heal physically and I realised I wanted to do that. I wanted to make a change in people’s lives, even if it was just being able to breathe better or to stand properly. Also, being crazy about sport, I would be able to help people get over sports injuries.”
Shafiya didn’t do her best in matric and her results scuppered her opportunity to study physiotherapy in 2005.
Stellenbosch offered her a bridging course called SciMathUS, which allowed her to redo certain subjects to improve her marks.
Nevertheless, she still wasn’t accepted for physiotherapy the following year, in-stead opting to study sports science. She completed that four-year degree before trying again to enter the field she really wanted to be in. By the end of the first-degree she owed the National Students Financial Aid Scheme more than R100 000.
In 2010 Shafiya was finally accepted for physiotherapy, but it was too late to apply for bursaries for that year. “I was devastated. I was going to get an opportunity to study for my dream career, but I couldn’t finance it. To add to this, my father was being retrenched.”
The university’s financial department suggested Shafiya apply to the Moshal Scholarship Program, telling them her story.
“I was shocked that I got it and so grateful. I was going to show them with my grades that I was worth it.”
“For me physio wasn’t about getting a degree. I wanted to absorb every fact, even if it was irrelevant for my exams. Who knew if I just might need to know that fact when I was working as a physio.”
In her third year she got married. Her grandmother insisted on paying for the wedding with money she had saved for her own funeral. “She was determined to see me in a wedding dress,” Shafiya says.
But in the first year of the marriage, and final year of her degree, there were numerous deaths in her family – including her grandmother. She sunk into depression and battled academically. In the end, she passed – and was so thrilled she just cried and cried.
In 2015, she did community service at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital and loved every second of it. “The work I did covered all aspects of physio, from dealing with brain injuries to broken bones and getting sputum out of babies,” she says.
She is now employed at a private Cape Town gym as a physical trainer and physiotherapist. “What I love about it is it enables me to pursue both my fields of study,” she says. “I hope this job will help me get experience to one day manage my own practice, together with serving the community through volunteer work and creating jobs for others.”
She attributes her success in getting a good job to The Moshal Scholarship Pro-gram having given her the necessary tools to write a CV, speak confidently and do a good interview.
I am so grateful for the way of life they have taught me. They have motivated me to give with purpose,” she says.
“Martin Moshal is a king, but such a humble, respectful and honest one. Thank you, Martin, for giving me the opportunity to reach my goals and the inspiration not to fail.”