Theo Mahlangu is an incredible South African student who has been part of the #FeesMustFall campaign & is hopeful for a brighter future for all South Africans.
From humble beginnings, Theo grew up with his mother & siblings in Eersterust, a township on the outskirts of Pretoria often referred to as “First Rest”. From an outsiders eye, the small township looks quite destitute but once you spend some time there, you quickly realise the warmth & see the heart of the community.
His dream to go to university to get a higher education all stemmed from his mother, Rachel Mthimunye, a cleaner at the University of Tshwane.
Her job afforded her the ability to look after her children & send them to school but more so, working for a university taught her, that her kids could also achieve their greatest dreams by working hard & staying focused.
Theo thinks of his mother as his biggest inspiration, “Even though she earns so little, she has always helped others where she could.”
“She taught me to make the best out of all situations, to appreciate what you have because some have less than most & thats a trait I have adopted in my life.”
Theo moved to Johannesburg in 2013 to study Homoeopathy at the University of Johannesburg. His dream to practice medicine were achieved through hard work, determination & financial aid through the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme).
The NSFAS gives loans to students to assist with studies which include tuition fees, residence, food, books and travel. The total amount usually don’t balance out basic living needs or the length of studies needed & students still need to work while studying to ensure survival.
Students are required to repay the loan once they finish studying & start to work full time. The interest varies but with university costs increasing each year, the repayments could take decades to pay back.
Even though Theo had received the NSFAS loan, he has worked through all his University years & with only one year of study left to achieve his degree, Theo sights are now on studying further to become a surgeon.
“Surgeons usually study for longer than other medical specialists but that doesn’t phase me. I want to help my country and I want to make sure that South Africans are looked after.”
At the end of 2015, he reaches the end of his loan, with many years of study still to go.
“The 0% fee increase is incredible but it still doesn’t solve the current financial situation for the majority of students. The leaders of tomorrow are the children of today… empower them now so they can ultimately empower everyone’s future.”
Theo has already started looking for a permanent position for next year to enable him to save, pay back his loan & start paying for his new studies.
“The best thing that ever happened to me is realising that I am capable of almost anything. The potential in me is almost of unimaginable scale… its only up to me to tap into it.”
“It would be much easier if I had the resources to help me but until then, until the policies change, I’ll create my own opportunities & work hard to achieve my goals.”