Struggling spaza shop mom rejoices as daughter bags bursary
Durban – A star matric pupil from KwaZulu-Natal who was motivated to keep working hard by her mother's daily struggle to sell sweets and snacks at her spaza shop has been awarded a bursary by the Department of Water and Sanitation.
Sibongile Mdaki, who turned 18 recently, and her mother Nomvula Ndlozi were elated when they heard the news on Monday.
"I am happy, I am really grateful," the shy teenager, who was at a loss for words, managed to say.
Her 50-year-old mother, who lives in Osizweni township in Newcastle, said she was happy about the bursary because she would not have been able to afford to send her daughter to university otherwise.
"I run a small spaza shop near Zama High School, where she matriculated, and on a good day I make R250. She is the first to go to university and I am really proud and grateful for the assistance," said Ndlozi.
Last Thursday Mdaki was announced as the fourth-best matric pupil in the province's best-performing district, Amajuba, Newcastle.
Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana announced the provincial pass rate of 66.4%. Amajuba got a 77.4% pass rate. In 2015, the district obtained a 58.8% pass rate and ranked eighth in the province.
In an emotional interview on Thursday, Mdaki told News24 that she had achieved the results under enormously difficult circumstances after she lost her grandmother, aunt and uncle during her matric year in 2016.
In addition, she feared that her dreams of becoming an electrical engineer would go unfulfilled because her mother's only source of income was the spaza shop.
She had applied for a place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and had been accepted at both institutions but was still awaiting a response from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
On Monday, News24 received a call from the CEO of Spazapp, Timothy Strang, saying hours after posting the story on the app's Facebook page, someone had responded with an offer to assist the teenager.
The app connects spaza shops directly to large food and consumables companies.
"Sibongile and Nomvula's story exemplifies the social good that is possible from a successful 'survivalist entrepreneur' and...we shared the News24 article on our Facebook page and shortly had a reply from the Department of Water and Sanitation who wanted to grant Sibongile a bursary," Strang said.
"Being part of the good news solutions is great."
Strang said while Sibongile will be realising her dreams of getting an education this year, the company would be working with her mother, assisting her to register on the Spazapp platform which will give her access to business and entrepreneurship training, among other benefits.
Verena Meyer, the director for career management at the Department of Water and Sanitation, confirmed that Mdaki had been awarded a full bursary which will cover her registration and tuition fees, meals and accommodation as well as a stipend for books.
Once she completes her degree, Mdaki will have to work for the department for at least three years.
Meyer said the bursary was part of the department's graduate development programme for pupils who are interested in careers in engineering and science. The programme, which started in 2007, has produced nearly 800 graduates, some of whom are already working professionals.
"I am always touched by these kind of stories and every time around this year we look for learners who are in need like Sibongile. There are so many others who are in need, some are facing more difficult circumstances, like heading households.
"When these kids walk in here to start their first day of work, then you know that you have done your job," said Meyer.
Depending on which university the beneficiary attends, the bursary pays out between R65 000 to R100 000 per student a year.