Despite living through many hardships while growing up in Limpopo, including being orphaned at seven and losing her only sister in her final year of study, Rosy Mudzanani completed her BCom degree in economics and finance at UCT at the end of 2015.
She is currently doing her BCom honours in financial analysis and portfolio management at UCT.
“Last year in March, my sister passed away … Last year was also my final year, but I told myself that I have to graduate, because I have a lot of people who are looking up to me,” says Rosy. “But I'm grateful for all the challenges that I went through because I would never be where I am today if it was easy. If it was easy, you would never be thankful.”
Her determination comes from having to be a fighter from a young age.
“I've faced challenges since I was young. In 2001, when I was six-years-old, my mother died of AIDS. At that time people were not well educated about the disease. They all thought my younger sister and I had AIDS, so we were disowned by relatives,” she explains. “They didn't want anything to do with us, so we were moved into a different village with a different lady who we had never met before.”
Despite the difficulties that come with being raised by a foster parent, Rosy remained focused on her academics. When she was in Grade 7, her primary-school teacher informed her about the Sumbandila Scholarship. A determined 13-year-old Rosy knew the scholarship was an opportunity she could not miss.
“Before I even filled in the application form, I decided it was my ticket out of there. I pictured myself in a school I had never seen before; I pictured myself sleeping in a bed; and I pictured myself having daily meals, meeting different people of different races. It was on that day I decided that scholarship would be mine,” says Rosy.
She was awarded a fully paid scholarship and soon found herself at Ridgeway College in Louis Trichardt. Soon after moving into boarding school, Rosy faced challenges from her foster parents and members of her family from the maternal side. Leigh Bristow, the founder of the scholarship, fought for her guardianship to ensure that she did not lose her scholarship.
Do not feel sorry for yourself
“We often sit down and feel sorry for ourselves, but that's not going to get you anywhere. I learnt from a young age to stop sitting around and moping – use your story to get you somewhere. I used my story to get a Sumbandila Scholarship to study at Ridgeway. I used my story to get funding to university, so now I'm here,” says Rosy.
Although she initially wanted to study politics, she opted to do economics and finance. The BCom in economics and finance is her stepping stone into getting a better understanding of the economy.
“I wanted to get into politics, so I sat down and realised you can't just get into politics. I needed to first study something that would help me understand the basics of what goes on in the economy.”
Rosy, who says she “likes being different”, chose a different career path because she wants to be a role model to other students back home in Limpopo.
“When you grow up in the village, all you see is a doctor, a nurse or a teacher and you think that's all you can ever be,” she explains. “It's okay to be a doctor, a nurse or a teacher, but I want them to understand that it's not the only thing that is there for them. There are other things they can do out there.”
Never lose hope
After her sister passed away last year, she began to lose hope and started questioning why she should pursue her studies.
“I asked myself, 'What is the point?' I realised the degree is for the people that look up to me. Professor Don Ross, my mentor, and Leigh, along with the Sumbandila family, have been extremely supportive. I would have never been able to do it without them,” says Rosy.
“I told myself, 'I'm going to write my exams and pass.' This is what my mother would have wanted, and this is what my sister would have wanted. I wrote my exams and I did well,” says Rosy.
“Professor Don Ross was so impressed, and that's what it was about – leaving those impressions because I committed that I was going to do it, and I'm going to make sure I do it in record time.”
When asked about graduation, Rosy says: “It's not about being excited. It's about being grateful that I am studying and my fees are fully paid, thanks to Investec and the UCT Dell Foundation. There are so many students out there who don't have the opportunity that I had – students who are brighter than me. That's what keeps me going. If I quit now, I would have wasted resources that could have been used for other deserving students. That's enough motivation.”
Rosy is currently working on finding an internship. Her other goals include working in industry and then doing her master's.
“I need to use my story to get into internships. Use your story to pave a path for yourself – I've been using my story. If you use your story, own it. If you don't own it, who will? You may be going through a rough patch, but there is someone who is going through worse,” she says.
She attributes her success to never being ashamed to ask for help.
“People will help you if you seek help. I don't care if I look like a fool … there is no point in you pretending you understand. I'm that student – always asking questions. I'd never be where I am had I not done that,” she says.
Story Chido Mbambe. Photo Michael Hammond.
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