Seven women from a small mining town in Welkom celebrated their graduation. Their photographs became an internet sensation.
Photographs of their celebration were shared on Twitter by Motlhanka WaMorena‚ who wrote: “In a slowly dying small ‘mining’ town Welkom‚ a township called Thabong‚ girls from not so desirable (hopeless) backgrounds took it upon themselves that they’ll get educational qualifications no matter what‚ through hard work. RT to inspire other girls in hopeless situations.”
One of the women‚ Refilwe Mofokeng‚ had to juggle being a mother to her seven-year-old son‚ a student and working simultaneously.
“It’s challenging doing it all in one. I am a single mother and I live alone. I have to do everything for myself and my son. I paid for my studies and pushed myself to get this far‚” said Mofokeng.
At times‚ Mofokeng had to walk to school because she could not afford a taxi. She said Motaung’s pictures silently captured different stories of hope for her.
“We may not be from the same backgrounds but we shared common struggles as people who live in this area. The stories of hardships are different. Sometimes it’s difficult for one to place a simple thing such as food on the table‚” she said.
Mofokeng‚ who graduated with a BTech degree in language practices‚ is currently enrolled for a masters degree at the Central University of Technology. Since she started working as a part-time lecturer at the university‚ her life has changed for the better.
“I am able to fetch my son on time from school now because I bought a car. My life has really changed. My parents help me a lot with him and I am able to get a chance for marking‚” Mofokeng said.
Mamoya Tshabalala was one of the few people on her street who managed to complete their higher education.
“There is no hope in this place. The only thing thriving is gangsterism and crime. People are always getting stabbed or robbed. Nothing else is happening. I think I am the third person to graduate‚ another being my brother‚ so you can imagine‚” Tshabalala said.
In order for her to complete her studies‚ her domestic worker mother encouraged her to move to a school residence so she could focus on her studies away from the township distractions.
“I had no one to look up to in my neighbourhood. At some point I wanted to drop out because I did not understand. It was not easy; sometimes I would use my NSFAS allowance to buy things in the house‚” she said.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is a government-backed initiative to help students from poor and working class families who would otherwise not be able to afford to study.
Tshabalala has completed a Diploma in Language Practice and is currently studying towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
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