For medical student Thanduxolo Dube, caring is one of the most important qualities one can have. It’s through his own spirit of caring and that of others that he’s on his way to becoming a doctor.
“Caring really carries us,” says Thanduxolo. “The reality is that nowadays everyone is about success. People want to make it so they’re chasing money and materialistic things. That’s ok, but amid all that I’ve seen a rise in the cases of mental health issues, particularly depression. Regardless of how well off we are, at the end of each day we all need someone who cares. It may not be a definitive solution or treatment for whatever adversity you face but knowing someone cares lifts the load somewhat.” Caring is closely related to the Moshal values of community and paying it forward, he adds.
Currently in his fifth year of medicine at UKZN, Thanduxolo lives by these values. He’s currently based in Pietermaritzburg where he’s using his skills and caring nature to help others. “I’m busy working on the decentralisation programme where they allow medical students to go and work on distant sites to be close to communities there,” he explains.
The long walk to academic excellence
Thanduxolo knows the struggle that comes from being part of an underprivileged community. “I’m somewhat from a typical black background,” he says. “I feel I have two families, one from my father’s side based in Stanger, and my maternal family based in Newcastle, which is where I grew up.” While his parents wanted to be together, distance and financial constraints meant they never married. “I could only visit my father once in many years, and my mother had to go to Johannesburg to find work to earn money to support me,” he says. “She’d come back once every two to three months. I formed part of a bigger family under the guidance of my maternal grandparents in Newcastle and attended the public school there. At the time, it didn’t feel like I came from a poor background, but in retrospect I can clearly see that it was not the best of conditions. But it was masked by the fact that we were a big family, we had each other.”
To get to high school, Thanduxolo would have to walk very far every day. “My family chose the school because it had a good matric pass rate. I was lucky that I had supportive teachers and friends who were motivated.” Academics came easily to Thanduxolo. “I didn’t really have to put much work into studying,” he says. “I completed my matric in 2013 and was one of the top five learners in the district. That led to the medical school life I have now.”
From traffic cop to doctor
Thanduxolo didn’t always know that his destiny lay in medicine. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and my family didn’t know much about careers and university life, so they weren’t in a good position to advise me. I had an aunt who was inspired by a friend who became a traffic cop, so I was influenced by her excitement when she’d talk about it. When I was in grade 9, I got 98% for mathematics. The grade 11 maths teacher asked me what I wanted to become. I said I wanted to be a traffic cop. He laughed and said; “Those brains do not deserve to have sunburn.” He asked what else interested me and I said medicine and he said that was where I had to go. From then onwards I knew I’d do medicine. If it wasn’t for that 98% though, maybe I’d be a traffic cop,” he laughs.
When he got to university, Thanduxolo discovered Moshal by chance. “I can’t remember how I was surviving without it, it was a blessing,” he says. While he usually studied in his room at university residence, one night he decided to go to the study room. Outside he heard a student on a call to Moshal. “He was speaking English and saying thank you and I was puzzled,” says Thanduxolo. “After the phone call he was so excited, and I asked what happened and why he was speaking English at night. He told me he’d just gotten a Moshal scholarship and gave me the details on how to apply. So, I emailed Moshal myself, responded to some questions and a few days later I got the same call.” While everything seemed to happen so randomly, Thanduxolo believes it was part of a bigger plan. “I’m thankful to God for that.”
While Thanduxolo has no role model, he’s found inspiration within. “I grew up independent and mostly chose my path myself,” he says. “I’m someone who imagines a lot, so I’m inspired by the version of the person I want to be – the person I see in my imagination.”