By Sylvi F Nghihangwa
My name is Sylvi F Nghihangwa, 24 years old, 2019 graduate from the University of Namibia. I would like to share my story of my academic journey and the struggles I had encountered.
Being a student is not a walk in a park, especially for those of us from poor backgrounds. I’m almost certain that majority can relate to this. All my life has been a struggle if I must say, but it has gotten tougher when I enrolled for university. The first challenge I experienced was that of not knowing what to go study once I pass grade 12. Upon entering university, I registered for a course which I wasn’t so sure of and that was in 2014. So I changed to education in 2015.
One of the hardest things I endured while I was a student was the struggle of not having transport money. At the very beginning it was really hard because then I was just very new. I missed some classes because of absenteeism due to the lack of transport money. I remember an certain time in the first year when I was absent the entire week and when I returned, my name was erased from the attendance register book of one of the modules because apparently I do not belong to that class (well, this was simply due to many days of being absent). As weeks went by, I saw some ladies selling sweets and chips on campus so I decided to start selling mine too. It was not so easy at the beginning but as time went by I got used to it.
I used to carry lollipops and niknaks in my big bag pack and sold in disguise because we were not allowed to sell on campus as per Unam policy. I also sold muffins and cookies for some time in the final year. I had to be extra cautious and be on the lookout for the Shilimela guards as they will confiscate your things once they catch you. Many times people thought I am Zimbabwean because I carried a big bag and selling (they probably think it’s only Zimbabweans who hustle, *laughs*). Some called me “stocky leker”, others “mama cookie” and others on the street called me the “muffin lady”, (no hard feelings though, smiles). I must admit it was not an easy task at all having to work between selling, studying and attending classes. I had to strike a balance between my school work and the selling.
There were times I had to miss the early morning classes because I bought stock on a daily basis or skip the last classes to hurry and get stock before the shops close, otherwise it then means no selling the next day, and that means no money, which eventually leads to no going to school. I often got questions like; “don’t you get tired of carrying this bag? It’s so heavy”. I would reply with a smile, “I am used to it”. Sure, it was one load of a heavy bag. I walked with it to the stop where there were mini buses that are cheaper, and I was always sweaty. I hadn’t only sold on campus, but in the streets of Katutura too and other times door to door in town for muffins and cookies. It was still not an easy thing because at one point I was caught by the city police officers apparently we aren’t allowed to sell in town.
To add on that, I was working as a waitress at various restaurants in my first and second year, and I must admit it wasn’t so easy at that time either. I had to work night shifts throughout the week and doubles during the weekends. Some nights got busier and as a result I never really had proper rest, because I had classes as early as 7:30 in the morning and most times I knocked off midnight from work. So it was yet again another struggle I had to face until I decided to stick to the lollipops and niknaks business.
So what message am I trying to give here? Am I really getting somewhere with this or simply trying to show off? No no! I am here to tell you that you can beat the odds. I’m here to let you know that anything is possible and that as long as you set your mind to it you are unlimited. You are your only hindrance.
If you think you can and will then you definitely will do. But if you think you can’t, it’ll still be. It is what you think it is. So what you choose is what will apply.
In life, we all come from different backgrounds, and I am not sure what yours is like. Maybe you have a good support structure, you don’t even have to side hustle for survival, well, praise God for that. It’s a rare thing. Or perhaps you are that child who has two-three people who give you a hand, or maybe not at all, the struggle is just really real. Or perhaps that which you get is just not enough to cater for everything. Listen sometimes you might have a certain source of income, but it is just never really enough. I am not saying you shouldn’t be grateful, but let’s just be realistic.
Apart from transport fees, one has got to focus on the regular needs, and I think that’s just another means of motivation to try and do something to make ends meet for you. So all I am trying to tell you is that do not be ashamed of your hustle, provided that it is decent. Go ahead and help your mom, your aunt, or whoever it is trying to bring bread on the table. And if there is an idea that you are thinking of, take courage and let nothing stop you. Trust God for provision and work your way through. Focus on the bigger picture which is your dreams, and work towards achieving it. Don’t let your circumstances bring you down. They say, where there’s a will there’s always a way. So whatever obstacles you might be facing, do not let them stop you from reaching your destiny.
I stand today not only as a graduate, but also one who has managed to secure a job upon completion. I have also managed to release my very first gospel album in March this year, so I am not only a teacher but a gospel artist too. God has indeed favoured me and I can only be thankful that He has carried me through for all these years of my struggle. Anything is really possible, just stay focused and do not give up.
Cry yourself to bed if you have to, for relief, but be reminded that tomorrow always comes with new grace and new mercy for another opportunity. Therefore, be encouraged and stay strong. It all comes to a happy ending someday.
All the very best in life,