Inspiration from her mom to succeed

12 July 2019 - 11:29 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Mildreat Muroyiwa, pictured with her 22-month-old daughter Imani, who will be accompanying her to Friday's graduation ceremony.
Mildreat Muroyiwa, pictured with her 22-month-old daughter Imani, who will be accompanying her to Friday's graduation ceremony.
Image: Brenton Geach/UCT

Mildreat Muroyiwa experienced two major life events during her first year at the University of Cape Town. She lost her mother to cancer, and then she discovered she was pregnant. Undeterred Muroyiwa continued with her studies, making her unborn child a part of her journey.

Eventually she went into labour the weekend before crucial tests and because of her determination to do well academically, she took her books with her into the labor ward.

The proud mom will, on Friday, graduate with her Master of Commerce (MCom) degree.

 “I honestly hoped the baby would be born after the block, but as life would have it I went into labour one Saturday night before two important class tests that would contribute to my overall course mark. I so hoped the pain was a false alarm that I carried my notebooks to the delivery ward. My classmates even nicknamed my baby Baby MCom,” she shared.    

Born and raised in a township in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Muroyiwa is the youngest of four siblings raised by a single mother. She is the first to obtain a university qualification.

During her final block of classes Muroyiwa would sometimes go back to her rental apartment to feed the baby and express milk during lunch breaks as she only returned home late in the evening.

“I have always refused to let people dictate what I can and cannot do. While some said it was difficult or even impossible to study while pregnant I was determined to pursue my dream.”

Speaking of her motivation, Muroyiwa, said she took inspiration at being raised by her mother who had limited education and means, but desired to see the best in her children and strove to make it a reality, even though her father abandoned the family when she was an infant.

Sadly, her mother, who she described as a pillar of strength, did not see the fruits of her daughter's hard work. Two months before starting her studies, her mother succumbed to breast cancer.  

As she wrote up her dissertation, her little daughter, Imani was her constant companion. So much so that Muroyiwa decided to bring her to this graduation. “She must at least be in the class photo!” she said.

Her dissertation focused on the profitability of savings groups in South Africa. Her topic was inspired by growing up in Zimbabwe and watching her mother, a single parent, work with her hands and send four children to school from knitting jerseys and participating in savings groups. 

She was fascinated at the idea of applying academic research and insight into what makes savings groups successful.

“Such work resonates with my heart and passion to have instruments that uplift the poorest and savings groups are a financial inclusion tool that could help communities to do so.

"I had dreaded doing statistics all my life but for my dissertation, there was no dodging this bullet. 

"With the support of my supervisors and the Development Finance Head of Research, I am glad and overjoyed that I obtained a distinction. It was worth the nights of data analysis!” she said.

After graduation Muroyiwa wants to give back to society through work in the civic sector by applying everything she has learnt. She hopes to be a role model to her two daughters and is particularly grateful to her husband for his support. 

“For me the journey continues. I owe it to my daughters, to every girl child and to every woman to help transform the world we live in.”