Along with counts of students who sprang to register for various programmes at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU), Ntandoyenkosi Sphesonke Dladla from Mtubatuba was one of the first FTENs (first-time entering students) to be officially registered at the university.

He enrolled in the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering for a Bachelor of Science Agricultural Economics: Agribusiness Management.

At UNIZULU, there is an assortment of students whose lives vary from having plenty to severely lacking. Some students push through the most testing times and make something of their lives against all odds. Dladla’s is a story of unmitigated triumph, a true testament to how success is guaranteed for those who actively seek it.

The daunting sequence in Dladla’s encouraging story includes an intellectual gift and the right attitude. He grew up in a family where the only sources of livelihood were the government social grant and his mum’s meagre income – earned from working as a domestic worker.

“One day, my mother bought me a pair of shoes and I complained because I did not like them. She told me to go and work so that I can see how difficult it is out there. As of that day, I stopped complaining and thought to myself that I need to work hard in school so that, one day, I change the status quo at home,” Dladla recalled.

Dropping out of school and going to find employment to earn cash to support the family were some of the thoughts that used to visit the newly registered BSc student. This, more often than not, describes the life path of impoverished children. There were nights where he would go to bed on an empty stomach because there was nothing to eat.

When he got to grade 10, he decided to work parttime to assist his mother at home. He would clean people’s yards and wash cars to be able to earn money and put food on the table as well as buying clothes for himself and his sibling.

Following years of adversity, the worst happened – which almost derailed his dreams. Dladla got poor in health and there was no money to take him to see medical doctors. He could only visit the local clinics. The sickness that he had affected his brain and he could not concentrate in class. He would get server headaches; even his speech got affected. “This went on up until I finished matric. I ended up with 32 points. I would have received far better results if it was not for the fact that I was unwell. The lesson that I learned from my own story is that people should recognise their potential and not settle for anything less,” Dladla advised.

The BSc student is now more determined than ever and is gearing for the 2023 academic year.

  • Precious Shamase