From Humble Beginnings to Top Achiever for Summa Cum Laude Graduate
When Mr Ntokozo Qwabe started his LLB degree in 2007 he was just a youngster from the rural area of Oyaya in Eshowe with his parents’ hopes of him becoming the first person to graduate in his family weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Young Qwabe also had high hopes of following in the footsteps of his role model, the late former Chief Justice Pius Langa, and the desire to empower the less fortunate and inspire change in any way possible.
Seven years later that rural boy has graduated with his LLB summa cum laude and is currently doing an LLM in Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Cape Town as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar. He will use his KZN Rhodes Scholarship to study for two masters degrees at the University of Oxford later this year.
And it doesn’t end there! Qwabe was also an intern under Justice Edwin Cameron at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and recently received the UKZN Distinguished Students Award, the highest student honour at UKZN across the five campuses, for his academic excellence, university service and extensive community engagement.
For a person who had to drop out of university to work as a cashier at Checkers Supermarket for two years because of severe financial and socio-economic difficulties, these achievements prove that with hard work, determination and an academic environment which nurtures potential and supports talent such as UKZN, anything is possible.
‘It is magical to finish a degree at all as a Black student; to do it summa cum laude is just unbelievable,’ said Qwabe. ‘The number of Black summa cum laude or cum laude graduates is too low at universities because the plight of Black students at universities is still shaped by the historical imbalances which we currently have in South Africa making it hard for them to excel. Going forward this will hopefully serve as a huge inspiration to Black students at universities to see that they can still do well despite their disadvantage if they see beyond it,’ said Qwabe.
Proud parents Felokwakhe and Nomali Qwabe are overjoyed at having a son who with his success has overcome so many obstacles to achieve so much and empower others.
Speaking from their home in Oyaya, Mrs Qwabe could not hold back the tears of joy which she admits are a welcome change from all the tears of sorrow she cried when poverty threatened to destroy her son’s academic dreams.
‘When I think about the hard times we have been through and all the nights I have cried myself to sleep because my son is working as a cashier instead of pursuing his dreams at University, it breaks my heart. I prayed for him and his dreams and the Lord answered because Ntokozo has gone on to achieve so much more then we could ever hope for.’
‘When he told me about his scholarship to Oxford, I was worried that he would go overseas and not come back but he calls me often and reassures me that he will be fine and he will come home safely but as a mother you can never worry too much,’ she said.
Qwabe’s father is more proud of the man his son has become and how he continues to stay humble and to make his success not only for himself but also for his fellow students and his community through his contributions to society and the community.
- Thandiwe Jumo