Overcoming the odds: graduate celebrates after being called 'stupid' and 'slow'

26 March 2019 - 08:08 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Nandipha Mdanyana recently graduated from North West University.
Nandipha Mdanyana recently graduated from North West University.
Image: Supplied

Being labelled "the stupid one" at school was discouraging and heartbreaking, but the insult was not enough to stop Nandipha Mdanyana from pursuing her dream of studying at university.

Mdanyana, 26, from the Eastern Cape, graduated from the North West University, despite facing difficulties at school, where she failed two different grades.

She told TimesLIVE she couldn't wipe the beaming smile off her face after being conferred with her diploma in sports sciences two weeks ago.

"I failed grade 5, and you know how kids are. They teased me, called me 'stupid' and considered me a slow learner," she said.

Years later, Mdanyana faced the same predicament when she failed grade 11. 

"I had gotten over failing grade 5, but failing grade 11 just made things worse. All the memories just came back. I was discouraged and heartbroken, and this affected my well-being," she said.

Being the oldest of three children played a negative role in Mdanyana's academic journey, because she was not seen as a good role model for her siblings.

"I was told that I was dumb and the oldest in the class. It was heartbreaking. My parents were also disappointed. I remember my father did not even buy me Christmas clothes that year," said Mdanyana.

Following her failures, Mdanyana said a lot of people gave up on her and said she would not amount to anything in life. 

"I told myself that I would not be deterred, I would soldier on and failing was not an option," she said.

She passed matric when she was 20, while most pupils finished at 18. She recalled how even her school principal told her that she was not cut out for university.

"I was really excited when I passed my matric. I remember showing the principal my results and he was just like, 'Your marks are not great, don’t even bother to apply at any university. Try colleges, that's where you belong,'" Mdanyana told TimesLIVE.

Four years later, Mdanyana is a graduate, and is now looking for work.

"Getting this diploma was a dream come true for me. I know getting a job might not be easy due to high unemployment, hence I will take any job that comes my way. And at least I have my diploma handy," she said.

"When I saw my results I could not believe it. I was like, 'God, is this you?'" added Mdanyana.

"Look at me now - the stupid, slow little girl who couldn't qualify for university. The stupid, slow girl who can only go to a college. The girl whose cousins are better than her because they finished school before her. God showed them," she said in a social media post.

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