His MCom journey began with the shock of failing his first class test, but on 12 July Lifa Majali will graduate with his Master’s in Development Finance, which he earned with distinction, thanks to his commitment and dedication.
It was a tough road, during which he suffered a spate of housebreakings, a fire at the room he was staying in, and his wife falling pregnant – which they hadnʼt planned. But today he says, “God has answered my prayers”.
Majali fell in love with mathematics, business economics and accounting during his high school years at Thandokhulu High School in Mowbray, but when he didn’t qualify to enter the University of Cape Town (UCT) to do his BCom when he matriculated, his dreams were put on hold.
There was worse to come too. After being conditionally accepted at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) the following year, he was told at registration that his name hadn’t been recorded in the system.
“I felt like my world was falling apart. They weren’t interested in the letter I had, suggesting that it was a forgery.”
The alternative suggested by UWC’s administration was that Majali register instead for a one-year Certificate in Business Studies (CBS). Although he passed all his subjects, which made him eligible to enter mainstream BCom studies the following year, he first had to sort out his funding.
“My bursary from the Association for Educational Transformation (ASSET) was revoked because I was no longer going to study towards a BCom. I went to their offices and begged, and by the time I left they had committed to funding my fees until I finished my undergraduate degree.
“To be honest, I wasn’t mentally ready to juggle work and my studies, so after failing several modules I decided it was time to take a break and concentrate on work.”
“I will forever be grateful to [ASSET executive director] Derek Joubert for changing the course of my life.”
He found himself without funding again when he wanted to continue with postgraduate studies. He also had a one-year-old child and so, of necessity, he went to work for a bank during the day, attending three hours of night classes.
“I must say, that year was hell for me. To be honest, I wasn’t mentally ready to juggle work and my studies, so after failing several modules I decided it was time to take a break and concentrate on work.
“It was not an easy decision and I felt like a failure.”
In 2010, however, while working as a senior state accountant for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, he was offered a bursary to finish his honours, which he did in 2012. Mid-studies, he was promoted to work for the Western Cape Treasury as an assistant director: finance analyst.
His goal, from 2014, was to pursue his master’s at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), but it was only three years later, with bursary assistance from the provincial treasury, that he went to his first class.
“I must confess the pace at which the courses were presented for me was a bit of a shock, perhaps because I’d last studied a course as hectic as this one in 2012. I got the shock of my life when I failed my first class test for quantitative analysis for development and research methods.”
He then decided to join a group of students who stayed late after class each day in the library.
“This was a testing course, I must say. We all endured sleepless nights while trying to prepare for class tests, assignments and exams.”
But he’s adamant that the positives outweigh all the negatives.
While he was worrying about the expenses of a newborn baby, a wedding after finishing paying lobola for his wife, completing his grandmother’s house and buying a home for his young family, Majali got another promotion, becoming the City of Cape Town’s senior professional officer for grant funding.
“To pass the course you need two characteristics – commitment and dedication.”
“They say God’s timing is always perfect, and that promotion answered all my prayers. I have finished my grandmother’s house, I am married, and I was able to buy a house for my family.”
Of his dissertation, Majali said he investigated municipal infrastructure grants and service delivery in the Theewaterskloof and Overstrand municipalities.
He is grateful to Dr Gabi Nudelman, who works at the GSBʼs Writing Centre, for her advice.
“She was always there for me through my journey of writing my thesis, always giving me encouragement and guidance in relation to what I could try and what might work for my writing.
“I would [also] like to thank my supervisor Dr Latif Alhassan for his supervision throughout.”
For current and aspiring MCom students, Majali said: “To pass the course you need two characteristics – commitment and dedication. Without those, the odds of finishing the course are impossible.”
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