Ntombizodwa Merriam Mahlangu is a woman who defied the odds and achieved her dream of getting a higher education. She was born in Tonteldoos, near Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, South Africa, where she faced many challenges such as poverty, poor education system, lack of resources and development, and an unplanned pregnancy.
She had to give up her opportunity to study at Tshwane University of Technology when she fell pregnant in 2004. To provide for her daughter, she started working as a domestic worker in Pretoria East in 2007. She did not let her circumstances stop her from learning and improving herself. She taught herself how to use a computer, learnt to drive, and found employment as a receptionist, personal assistant, and public relations officer at a large organisation in the debt regulation industry.
With the support of her employer, she enrolled at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2014 and studied part-time for four years. In 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in human and social studies. She became one of the few domestic workers in South Africa who have attained a university degree.
According to Statistics South Africa, only 3.3% of domestic workers in the country have completed tertiary education as of 2019. The majority (57.7%) have completed secondary education, while 22.5% have primary education or less.
Mahlangu did not stop at getting a degree. She also wrote and published her first book, Brightness of Diamonds through Soil, a novel that tells the story of a domestic worker’s passion for education. She also launched a non-profit organisation called Help One Helper, which aims to empower domestic workers, gardeners, nannies, and handymen to achieve their full potential and change their lives for the better.
Help One Helper provides information on how to enrol at university, career guidance, financial assistance, and mentorship to domestic workers who want to pursue their education. Mahlangu hopes that her initiative will inspire and motivate other helpers to follow their dreams and not give up on themselves.
Mahlangu is an example of resilience, determination, and courage. She overcame many obstacles and proved that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication. She is a role model for many domestic workers who aspire to improve their lives through education. We want to celebrate Ntombizodwa today for being a go-getter, and enterprising. You are truly a Rising African and an able role model for the new African. Rising Africa is a dynamic platform that highlights the remarkable achievements of Africans worldwide and provides up-to-date information on scholarships and sponsorships available to African youth. Our vision is to inspire and empower the next generation of African leaders by showcasing the diverse accomplishments and talents of Africans across different fields, including technology, business, arts and culture, and social activism.
In other news, Sthembile Mngwengwe a 40-year-old woman from South Africa has also achieved her dream of earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). What makes her story remarkable is that she worked as a cleaner at the same university for 14 years before becoming a student there.
Sthembile graduated from high school in 1998 and wanted to pursue higher education, but her parents could not afford to send her to college. She started working as a cleaner at UKZN in 2018 and took advantage of the opportunity to study there for free. However, it was not an easy journey for her, as she had to balance work and studies while being out of school for nearly 20 years.
“Balancing work and studies gave me a lot of stress,” she told News24. “But if you work hard and pray to God, He will help you to achieve what you want.”
Sthembile used her good time management skills to juggle her responsibilities and complete her degree. She said that working at the university and seeing the professors’ offices she often cleaned inspired her to pursue higher education. She also said that being on campus and seeing other students attend classes motivated her to be one of them.
“I was motivated by being on campus too, seeing students walking up and down going to their lecture theatres to attend classes made me wish to be them,” she said.
Sthembile also received support from her daughter and colleagues who encouraged her along the way. She hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams regardless of their age or circumstances. Click here to continue reading about Sthembile.
Through our Success Stories portal, we celebrate Rising Africans of all ages and sectors who have risen above challenges and made impactful innovations. Our Wonder Kids section features young achievers aged 1-12, while the Super Teens category highlights those aged 13-19, and Young Achievers profiles those aged 20-30. We also have dedicated portals for Women in Africa and persons living with disabilities.
In addition to celebrating African achievement, our Opportunities portal connects African youth to the latest sponsorship, scholarship, awards, and other life-changing opportunities. By providing access to these opportunities, we aim to empower African youth to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in their communities.
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- Statistics South Africa: Domestic workers