Born into poverty. Forced to raise my siblings. This is not how my story ends
Cabangile Mdluli was plunged into adulthood when she was just 14 years old. With both parents absent, Mdluli became the caregiver for all three of her siblings. They depended on her to provide food, clothing, and electricity. All they had to survive on was a meagre government grant of R640. But while Mdluli was struggling at home, she was excelling at her schoolwork. An A-student, school was the only place Mdluli felt free to focus on herself. She could be a teenager, read, and study. It was her escape from the nagging thought that when she got home there may not be something to eat. Mdluli’s retreat turned out to be her salvation when she earned her place at university.
For Mdluli, the transition was like crash landing on another planet. “I heard about this thing called WiFi, and when other students explained it to me it sounded like an alien concept,” she says. Mdluli showered for the first time at her residence, having been used to washing up in buckets at home. But the drastic adjustments were part of her exceptional progress. Today, Mdluli is in her third year of studying social work, and believes she is exactly where she is meant to be. “Education is so important to me because it’s the only way we can make our lives better,” Mdluli says.
In the face of extreme hardship, Mdluli has not only pursued her dreams, but changed the lives of her family. “Even though I started off with R640 and struggled at home, that is not how my story ends,” Mdluli says. Hard work, perseverance and sheer bravery have helped her write a new chapter of her life. Mdluli hopes that when she qualifies as a social worker, she can empower people facing the same situations she has experienced. “I can help people look at life differently and believe in themselves,” Mdluli says. “If you are struggling, there are better times coming.”