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  • Writer's pictureRuth First Trust

Lessons learned, five years in

“In 2015 I matriculated from Jeppe High School for Girls with a bachelor’s admission to University. I did not get my distinction in English nor did I get an acceptance letter from Wits. As a non South African citizen with no access to funding, I did not have registration money for UJ, nor did I have a job waiting for me now that I was school-less.

“I watched my friends get ready for orientation week, move closer to their varsities and make new friends while I sat at home convinced that I would forever be left behind. Nothing could have prepared me for those moments but everything before that, prepared me for now.

“To cheer myself up, I would remember my best moments at Jeppe: playing one of the lead roles in FAME, meeting Lebo Mashile and Graça Machel, sewing an apron from scratch, smelling Ms Thurley’s perfume in the corridors and listening to Ms Pugin, so passionately telling us about the fall of Macbeth.

“Five years since matric and I can confidently say that I made it through because of the moments I spent at Jeppe. It has not been easy, but I am brave. It has not all been black and white but somehow the gold always shows up, eventually. It has not been what I imagined but it has been very real.

“Real like my ability to express myself because Ms Pugin demanded perfection. Real like working two jobs to pay my fees because Ms Edwards was always willing to give extra credit. Real like taking part in charity work because Mr Tait kept on believing in me and allowed me to continue on the scholarship despite my marks. Real like having taken the wrong path and burnt bridges but coming back and making things right because Ms Bernard always made a joke after she scolded you and gave you a second chance.

“I have learned how important it is to do more than what’s expected. I have accepted that I can complete one semester of studies a year – this slower pace enables me to achieve the marks I want while holding down a full-time job because we all know that if you are mediocre in one area of your life, it carries over into others. We all choose our own path – this is mine.

“So how am I getting on in the ‘real world’ after Jeppe? After having failed first year Varisty, after being retrenched last year due to Covid, after having gone through obstacles that weighed on me sometimes more than I thought I could handle.

Well, I have a great new job in a small accounting management firm. I am doing my second year in BCom HR Management through Unisa. I am looking after myself and my family and I am running a small business rendering beauty services. All of these are steps taken that bring me closer to becoming the woman of my dreams.

“Jeppe was a steppingstone but still somehow manages to be a pillar every single day. And the Ruth First Trust is a debt I will never ever be able to repay because it never stops giving, to others and to myself, even now.”

Melisa Mpoyi - January 2021

Melisa was one of our first four Ruth First scholarship holders in 2011. You can check out her business page @b_butterbeauty.

Melisa is pictured above with her puppy, Lucy.

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