Meet Belhah Mlimela, a 17-year girl who not only recently matriculated from New Nation School with three distinctions, but also received an all-inclusive CTAOP Youth Leaders Scholarship to study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
We sat down with Belhah and talked about what this scholarship and new journey as a university student means to her and her family as well as how the Foundation assisted in getting her there.
Q: How did you find out about the CTAOP Youth Leaders Scholarship programme?
B: I found out through TNF. Onthatile Distshego, who works for the Foundation came to our school and requested that we write motivational letters as there was a scholarship that required us to do so. There were five of us from my school which were asked to do this.
Q: Where were you when you found out you had been accepted into the CTAOP Youth Leaders Scholarship?
B: I was home, and then they sent me an email confirming that I had been accepted into the programme, and it was WOW. I couldn’t believe it. I had to read the email over and over again, and I know English, but I even got my mom to read the email to me.
Q: How did it feel to pass matric?
B: I knew that I would pass, but I didn’t think that I would do well. When I saw my results I even asked the Principal, “Sir are you sure this is my statement?” and the Principal responded saying, “Yes, of course. You did it. Congratulations, you have made me proud. I’m the proudest Principal right now”. I was so unsure about myself because during the final exam period there were times were, I would be sick quite a few times, and because of this, I just wasn’t sure that I would pass. I remember when I wrote my Mathematics paper 2, I was so sick that I had to go to the Principal’s office and ask for medication, which made me unsure of my results at the time.
Q: What are you going to be studying?
B: I’m going to be studying BSC in Applied Chemistry.
Q: What would you like to do with that qualification?
B: BSC in Applied Chemistry is very broad, so I will need to decide what I want to do. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but then I went to Johannesburg hospital, and I saw a lot of blood, and I got scared. I realized that I would not be able to be a doctor and then I thought – why not look for a career where I can still help people and the hospital but not have direct access to the blood? So my goal is to be a pathologist where I’ll be working in labs and researching about different diseases but still be able to help people.
Q: Have you always wanted to help people?
B: Yes, that is my dream, because I come from an underprivileged family and so I know what it means to be helped. So, I want to be there for people because I’ve been helped a lot in my life.
Q: How has TNF played a part in your school?
B: TNF has played a significant role. First of all, it helped my school be able to get laptops, and I’m incredibly grateful for that because if it weren’t for the Foundation, I would not be able to research the many medical industries there are besides being a doctor and choose my career. Had this not have happened I would have forced myself in trying to be a doctor knowing full well that I cannot be near blood. Hence, the Foundation played a significant role in allowing me access to information. The Foundation also helped us bags and scarfs. I remember that all I wanted was a bag. I did not focus on my report at the time. I just wanted a bag. The Foundation has also helped us with the higher learning institution applications through their partners, Gradesmatch. I remember I tried to do it on my own, but I realized the aid that Gradesmatch plays with assistance to applications because I couldn’t understand the requirements at the time. I was so grateful that TNF was there to hold our hands and walk with us as students.
Q: What would you say to the current matrics of 2020, knowing what you know?
B: What I would say is that they shouldn’t listen to anyone because in life there are people who will always have negative things to say, so they mustn’t listen to those people. Follow your imagination and think about what you want, because there were voices that were telling me that I was wasting my time when I brought the required documents I was asked to or came to the winter school that Gradesmatch held. I also listened to the TNF and finally studied. I believe that I am naturally intelligent. However, studying and listening to Gradesmatch is also important.
Q: How has the fact that you are the first in your family to go to university helped your family?
B: It has helped a lot because I’ve given them hope that anything is possible. Most of the people in my family have this mindset that because our grandmothers were underprivileged, we too will be underprivileged and we will be the underprivileged family. Still, because of my university acceptance and my scholarship, I’ve given them hope that anything is possible.