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From the streets of Mhluzi, Muzikayise Mtshweni is now looking forward to making positive changes in the world. He tells Avantika Seeth how a bursary changed his life.
When 24-year-old Muzikayise Mtshweni was awarded a full scholarship by Anglo American’s Coal South Africa business to fund his studies in accounting, he knew that it would pave the way for a hope-filled future for him and his family.
Mtshweni, who is doing his articles as a trainee accountant at auditing firm EY in Sandton, Johannesburg, grew up in the township of Mhluzi in Mpumalanga. However, he didn’t make this journey from the dusty roads of Mhluzi to the tarred roads of Sandton alone – he has had his parents and other community members with him every step of the way.
“My mum is a domestic worker and my dad is a petrol attendant, and I know that, without this opportunity, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue a career in accounting. I knew that the only barrier to becoming a chartered accountant was the funding. I didn’t even think about the challenges that lay ahead of me in varsity, or about failing, because I wanted this so badly.”
Within the next three years, Mtshweni will complete his articles and pass the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants board exams, however, his dream of becoming a chartered accountant only began when he was in high school.
“I think you can only dream about what you are exposed to as an individual. For me, growing up in the township, I was exposed to people working in the mines, and many people play soccer there, so I wanted to become a great soccer player,” he says.
“When I was in Grade 10, we went to a career exhibition at the Tshwane University of Technology, where someone spoke about accounting – something that I didn’t even know about, so that’s when I got interested in it. In Grade 11, I had a teacher who was very passionate about accounting, and that’s when I really started taking the subject seriously.”
My mum is a domestic worker and my dad is a petrol attendant, and I know that, without this opportunity, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue a career in accounting
After high school, Mtshweni earned his Bachelor of Accounting Science degree and then his postgraduate certificate in the theory of accounting from the University of Johannesburg.
Mtshweni is convinced that this scholarship has been such a success because it hasn’t limited his career choices to mining or engineering – something that is often the case with scholarship programmes sponsored by big corporates.
The Community Scholarship of Anglo American’s Coal South Africa business differs from other young traditional bursary schemes in that it offers people from mining communities the opportunity to pursue a field of study unrelated to mining. Since 2014, more than R30 million has been invested to fund the studies of 105 students.
“It was a moment of ‘this is going to change my life’. Getting the call that I received the scholarship literally changed my life and my attitude, as well as my self-esteem and my confidence. Coming from a poor background, my parents did everything for me. I wouldn’t say there was a time I slept without eating food, but varsity is expensive, and the scholarship closed that gap for us.”
The most important thing about getting the scholarship was that it allowed him to pursue his passion and study towards the career of his choice.
Coming from a poor background, my parents did everything for me. I wouldn’t say there was a time I slept without eating food, but varsity is expensive, and the scholarship closed that gap for us
“We have an issue of when an opportunity presents itself and you come from a poor background, you just grab that opportunity without bearing in mind that its not your passion. There are so many bursaries out there that are limited and fund studying engineering, mining, medicine or other areas. So this scholarship doesn’t limit your own opportunities. I know people who have been on the same scholarship who have studied linguistics and communications – they were able to follow their passion,” he says.
“It opens doors for so many people because, when you take an opportunity and mix that with passion, that’s when success happens.”
Despite living and working far from home, Mtshweni often returns to his roots and nurtures the community he was born in.
“My big dream is going back to where I’m from and making a difference. During my varsity days, I used to teach grade 11 and 12 accounting on Saturday mornings when I went home for the holidays. I just want to be able to give back to my community.”