The Education Ambassadors SA Team caught up with Tshepo Mofokeng who overcame some of life’s harshest experiences. Read his story below:
I come from a poor background but that didn’t stop to inspire me to define my future. Being gay is often an issue which most schools don’t get to address openly in front of other students. Taking it back to where it all started, I remember that during my school days I was deemed as “just a gay boy” which everyone knew since my arrival. Fortunately I made friends with a boy who was just like me and our teachers treated us different from other kids. At some point we were taken on a tour around the school and shown to every teacher. The good news is, that didn’t stop me from working hard in my studies.
Boys at school didn’t understand us, they thought that we had some sort of a ‘disease’ – this is where the brotherly hatred emerged. We were called horrible names! When “Yizo Yizo”, a drama series which used to air on SABC1 graced our television screens, words like ‘Stabane’ were thrown at us and it would make me feel so small, unwanted and eventually contributed towards affecting my confidence levels. Whenever I was on my own, I would ask myself why me? What is it that I did wrong? I never got any answers but thankfully there was television and radio. These platforms helped me and created an awareness that I was actually not the only one; there were many others like me out there. Right there and then I decided that the only way to fight all the hatred and discrimination was through education.
I excelled in school and quickly became the teachers favourite because I performed well and received higher marks than my peers. When I started focusing more on my education, learners and teachers started to recognise and respect me over and above my personality. Consistent dedication to my studies soon produced fruits as I became number one in my class for three consecutive years (grade 10, 11 and 12). In Matric I ended up with two distinctions! A local newspaper also featured me and some of the top performing learners for our hard work; and at that moment we were called to warm the assembly stage and I stood in front of our school learners and felt really proud of being me.
After Matric I was awarded with a bursary from the Dihlabeng Municipality, Freestate and I then enrolled for a B-Com degree in General Management at the University of the Freestate (UOFS, Qwaqwa Campus). I really enjoyed varsity as it was fun, exciting and most importantly, I got to be me and to learn more about myself. I truly loved every moment. However, varsity isn’t like high school. I aced my first and second year but completing third year modules was tough. I fought to finish this course but I didn’t make it. That’s when I experienced depression although I wasn’t aware that it was happening to me – because I never wanted to see myself as a failure. The following year I didn’t return to school due to lack of finances to pursue my studies. I knocked on every door to ask for help but I didn’t get it!
I recall words from my late mother saying to me: “Tshepo! Tshepo! Otlo dula soufeng moo until when? Yeee.” [How long will you sit on that couch?] I looked at her and kept quiet. She said to me: “My child don’t stress a lot, things will be fine”.
I then decided to look for a job because going back to varisty wasn’t happening. I went to Johannesburg with the hope that I will get one. And I went through several interviews which included call centre, petrol attendant and many other jobs. But I got none. A symphony of chuckles was the only response. However, God works in mysterious ways because there were vacant positions at SAPS which a friend of mine made me aware of and I managed to get an internship right there at SAPS thanks to honourable Mr Ace Magashule because I was part of the first graduate programme he initiated which comprised of internships and learnerships. After receiving my internship one of my goals was to finish what I had started which was my Degree in B-Com. Things were a bit tough due to work demands so I decided to study part-time and enrolled at one of the local further education and training college for a Diploma in Marketing Management. I chose to do this course because during my third year at UOFS I realised that I loved marketing! I managed to finish my Diploma in record time and I was so proud of myself. A part of me also wished that my mother would have seen me graduate because she could have been so proud of me and my achievements.
To wrap it all up, during all these happenings in my life, I embraced life and accepted that I am gay and that I need to live my life and always be happy. Today I am an independent working professional working towards achieving all my aspirations. Yes I will be judged but God doesn’t judge me because he’s the one who made me and provided all these opportunities for me. My relationship with God is good. I pray in good and bad things. I know he’s there at all times, I visit church like any other person and I’m fulfilled with his word.
To all of you out there still pursuing your dreams my advice to you is strive for success in whatever you do, trust in God, work hard, embrace life, and be you.
Facebook: Tshepo Tseva Mofokeng
Thank you so much for sharing your story with the Education Ambassadors SA family. We believe that you are brave and courageous. We wish you all the best in your career and educational journey.
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