“All of us had an equal chance. None of us had money, but there were opportunities that we had to work for and take – and when you can imagine it, you can own it and you can have it.”
These are the words of Celenkosini Malinga, a 20 year old university student, currently doing his Diagnostic Radiography course at the University of Johannesburg. As an impoverished high school pupil from a rural community, the odds were stacked against his dreams of a better life, for himself, his family, and his community.
The opportunity for change came in the shape of the Africa Foundation’s CLEF (Community Leaders Education Fund) bursary, a partial funding awarded to promising students within Phinda Private Game Reserve’s Mduku Community. Celenkosini’s mentor and inspiration was his high school teacher, Phumlani Zungu, a previous CLEF bursary recipient.
He has overcome numerous barriers in his journey so far, and in the process has set inspirational precedents. He is the first in his family to go to university, the first in his community to study at the University of Johannesburg, and the first in his community to study diagnostic radiology. Since he blazed this new path in 2016, 11 other students have followed in his footsteps.
However, in his success, Celenkosini has never forgotten those less fortunate than himself. He has been an active ‘Gift of the Givers’ volunteer since his arrival in Johannesburg, assisting with the distribution of food parcels to the needy in Johannesburg. He has also used the cooking skills learnt from his Gogo (grandmother) to bake muffins which he sells, and donates the profits to those students unable to afford toiletries. Each year, he returns to work at the Mduku Clinic, fulfilling the ‘buyisela’ (give back) condition of his CLEF bursary.
In living his dream, Celenkosini is not only shaping his future, but also making a fundamental difference to the lives of others.