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Good Samaritans hatch plan to help cash-strapped top matric study engineering

Triphin Mudzvengi received seven distinctions, but could not afford to go to university.
Triphin Mudzvengi received seven distinctions, but could not afford to go to university.
Image: GroundUp/Supplied

A top matric pupil whose story went viral because she could not afford to enrol at  university is eternally grateful to good Samaritans who are helping her to realise a dream of studying engineering.

Triphin Mudzvengi, 18, obtained distinctions in seven subjects and was accepted at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). But due to her family's financial constraints she was unable to enrol.

However, this could soon change.

“I am really grateful, this is like a dream come true. I don’t know what I would be doing if it wasn’t for everyone helping me,” she told TimesLIVE on Wednesday evening.

During the day, nearly R50,000 was raised towards her tuition and accommodation fees. Annual tuition fees cost about R149,000.

With her matric marks, she qualified for a R15,000 bursary as a top performer, but this was not enough, as the university required 75% of the fee upfront before she could register.

The Zimbabwean, whose story was broken by GroundUp, told the publication she arrived in SA with her parents in 2010 and did not qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding.

She could not approach the Zimbabwean Embassy for assistance because the Refugees Amendment Act forbids refugees and asylum seekers to visit, seek aid or communicate with their governments.

Mudzvengi said her mother was employed as a domestic worker while her father was a builder. She said though she was a bright child, her background inspired her to work harder.

“My parents have always taught me that without education we would not get anywhere.

“They have been paying for school fees, taking care of me and my three siblings and paying rent with the little they make. This is why they couldn’t afford my fees,” she told TimesLIVE.

Among the good Samaritans leading the initiative to get Mudzvengi enrolled is Prof Jonathan Jansen, who read about her plight on Facebook.

“I reached out to her and asked that she gives me a call at 7.30am, which she did, and we had a lengthy discussion,” he said.

After their conversation he reached out to Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib and the head of department of engineering, and pleaded with them to make a plan for Mudzvengi, said Jansen.

“We have a responsibility as human beings to reach out to these young people in need and reward those who excel, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he told TimesLIVE.  

Jansen said he had also approached various individuals who expressed a willingness to assist the “absolutely outstanding” teen.  

“South Africans are really good people.” 

He hoped the deed would send a message that SA was a country that cared about young people.

Through his efforts, Mudzvengi is expected to meet Wits management on Friday.

She said her first choice of study was mechanical engineering, but could not reject an offer to study civil engineering.

“I didn’t want to reject the offer because they have common modules, which could open other opportunities, and I can still switch to mechanical engineering next year [2021],” she said.

With a degree, she hopes to produce raw materials and start her own company, which would open up employment opportunities and make a difference to Southern Africa.

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