A determination to extricate himself and his mother from the grip of township drugs and gang wars and poverty – and above all the will to succeed -drove young Courtney Edwards in his quest to obtain an educational qualification that would shape his life.
Edwards was one of four beneficiaries of the Motsepe Foundation bursary programme who graduated from the Cape Peninsula Unniversity of Technology recently. The others were: Anele Unati Sinelli, Siyabulela Mahlanyana and Sean Smith.
“I saw the suffering of my mother from a drug user who also abused her physically. I saw my elder sister succumb to the drug habit too, and my younger sister drop out of school even before high school. I said to myself: Courtney, do something with your life,” Edwards said this week after graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree.
“I begged, I scraped for money to see me through school, but I never gave up. There are many people who helped – I left home to escape the situation and lived with an aunt in Mitchells Plain. For me, it was fundamental to get matric as the first step to getting a university qualification.”
He recalls that he had to leave his aunt’s place as his demands for support increased, and he lived at various places for short periods as he was studying for matric. “I was not even sure I would pass – and my roving earned me the nickname of “The Mitchells Plain Tourist”. I was also called the “Ten Cent Man” as I would always be asking for ten cents from friends and classmates.”
But passing matric was only the beginning of further hardship. “I needed R3,500 to register, and even though I had done some voluntary work for the Mitchell’s Plain Bursary and Role Model founded by Trevor Manuel, I was not a beneficiary. The fund supports about 85 students.”
Eventually, Ms Tamara Esau, who is a partner at KPMG gave him the R3 500 to register. “I then applied NSFAS from whom I received funding for tuition. I found a job packing tables on market day, and earned enough to barely pay for my accommodation and food. Sometimes, I went without food,” Edward said.
“But in my second year, I applied to the Motsepe Foundation, and I was blessed to have been selected for funding. The Motsepe Foundation paid for everything in my third and fourth year, and even provided me with a stipend. For the first time, I felt like I had a parent who looked after me. For the first time, I experienced what it was like to have somebody take care of you – I had books, I had food, and I had food, and for the first time, I could focus on my studies.”
He said that the Motsepe Foundation taught him how to give back, and he is determined to set up a safe house for children who have the same background as himself where they can live in relative comfort and safe from drugs and gangs while studying.
“I am grateful to the Motsepe Foundation and the Motsepe family for having empowered me to help my family. “One graduate can save a family and lift them out of poverty,” he said.
Edwards wants to study for an honours degree, but is currently working as a teacher.