“Some motorists treat a car guard terribly, thinking they will spend the money they are given on alcohol and drugs. However, I persevered in my humble job as I needed to complete my studies.”
Western Cape, South Africa (29 July 2021) – A Rwandan refugee who knew he deserved a better chance in life and decided to improve his academic qualifications took a job as a car guard so he could pay for tertiary education.
Patrice Niyonteze who was a human resources manager and school teacher in his home country decided to further his studies in South Africa so that he could land a good job and have a more fulfilling and prosperous future. In order to pay for his studies, he worked as a car guard during the day and studied at night.
He said in 1990, he enrolled to study agronomy at a university in Rwanda but his studies were curtailed when civil war broke out. He then worked as a primary school teacher. In 1992 he got a job as a human resources manager. In 1996 he began teaching at a secondary school. In 1997 he worked as a laboratory manager until 2004 when he left Rwanda for political reasons.
Soon after arriving in Cape Town from Johannesburg, he enrolled for an MBA with MANCOSA private higher education institution and graduated in a virtual ceremony that was the joyous culmination of years of hardship and challenges.
He recalled how difficult it was for him to introduce himself to fellow students when he first enrolled for tertiary studies. “They were all in good, professional jobs while I was a car guard. However, I reminded myself there is dignity in labour and before long, I had many friends.”
Niyonteze worked as a school teacher in Rwanda for several years but decided to flee the country of his birth because of the genocide.
When he arrived in South Africa, he stayed in Pretoria for a while. A friend advised him that if he wanted to study further, he should relocate to Cape Town. He began working as a car guard and enrolled at MANCOSA.
Nuhraan Sambo, Associate Director at MANCOSA, said: “MANCOSA is passionate about accessibility to education and meeting Patrice was a most humbling experience. I am both inspired and motivated to hear about Patrice’s journey and his determination to further his studies despite his personal circumstances.
“We meet many individuals at MANCOSA and Patrice is a reminder of why we do what we do as an academic institution.”
Niyonteze said the first semester was tough for him because he could not afford to buy textbooks.
“In the second semester, some colleagues helped me by sharing their electronic books and even paying for me when we had to have extra lessons,” he said.
He said it was challenging to work as a car guard and study at the same time.
“Being a parking attendant can be demoralizing. One moment you can be elated when a motorist gives you R20. The next moment you can be frustrated when you are given just 20 cents whilst expecting more, judging by the expensive car.
“Some motorists treat car guards terribly, thinking they will spend the money they are given on alcohol and drugs. However, I persevered in my humble job as I needed to complete my studies.”
Niyonteze said the youth should focus on the future by studying and listening to their parents and other authoritative people.
“In particular, African youth should work hard to help the continent pull itself out of poverty and become a rich continent,” he said.
His ambition is to own his own business. Meanwhile, he is seeking employment.
“All I seek is for somebody to give me a break and I will prove myself. Decent employment will afford me the chance to give my family a better life,” he said.