Sithembiso Ndlovu, who graduated on Monday from the University of Zululand, said it was an emotional day for him.
“I am overwhelmed because I had a very difficult life. I couldn’t ask for anything from my family, even if it was for school fees or books because they were struggling to make ends meet ,” he said.
Ndlovu recalled that he would attend lectures on an empty stomach and had to wait for months before he could afford to buy new clothes.
The 22-year-old’s luck changed when a “complete stranger” intervened to assist him financially.
Ndlovu said after “years of hardship” he was not only celebrating his achievement with his family but also with his benefactor Sabelo Mabaso.
He said without the support of Mabaso, graduating at the age of 22 would not have been possible.
“I met someone who changed my life for the better. We were not family or friends; we were complete strangers. I did not know him but he treated me like family,” said Ndlovu.
The only connection we had, said Ndlovu, was that we came from the same area in Ladysmith.
“He heard of my family’s struggles and offered to take care of me. He offered support and asked me to call him whenever I needed anything,” said an emotional Ndlovu, adding that although his “saviour” is twice his age, he refers to him as a friend because “a true friend is one who steps in when the whole world walks away”.
Ndlovu also explained that his friendship with Mabaso did not only come with a financial boost but also taught him lessons about life.
He said he was inspired to become compassionate towards others, regardless of whether they were family.
Just days after his graduation, Ndlovu has already accepted a job offer at a Gauteng-based school.
“My dream is to now establish a career-guidance foundation in rural areas which can aid in exposing the youth to the various career opportunities available to them,” added Ndlovu.
He said the only careers youth in rural areas seemed to know of and gravitate towards were teaching and nursing and he hoped to change this.