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.
However, in his success, Celenkosini has never forgotten those less fortunate than himself. During his study years, he was an active ‘Gift of the Givers’ volunteer in Johannesburg, assisting with the distribution of food parcels to the needy in Johannesburg; he also used the cooking skills learnt from his Gogo (grandmother) to bake muffins which he sold, and donated the profits to those students unable to afford toiletries. Each year of his studies, Cele returned to work at the Mduku Clinic, fulfilling the ‘buyisela’ (give back) condition of his CLEF bursary.
Cele graduated in 2020 with two distinctions, and presently you will find him working at the Queen Nandi Regional Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
In living his dream, Celenkosini is not only shaping his future and making a fundamental difference to the lives of others, but has also inspired 11 other students to follow in his CLEF footsteps.