First San trio makes it to varsity

They have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what had hitherto been thought impossible.


The three youths had to fight ideological, mental, physical and social barriers to be the first in their community to enrol at a university.


From the reclusive San community in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North whose way of life has hardly changed in decades, the trio may now carry the hopes of a people that some say are being threatened with extinction.


Last week it was established that although the San appear to exist in a cocoon that insulates them from the rest of the world, modernity has broken through enough to dilute their language.

The San/Tjwa language is facing extinction as less than five people can speak their native language and the death of their language might mean the loss of their culture too.


Others have adopted dialects of isiNdebele and Kalanga.


The nomadic San are hard to locate or speak to as they disappear at the sight of strangers.


To access them, one needs to go through someone they trust from their community.

Even donors and Government authorities struggle to get information about the extremely shy people who are content to eke a living through hunting and gathering.


A majority are illiterate and they have resisted numerous interventions to integrate them into mainstream society since 1928.


Never before has someone from the San community been enrolled at a university.


No one from the San community has ever been employed in a professional set up, not even as menial labourers and for the longest time they exclude themselves from interaction with other communities.


To complete Ordinary Level and Advanced Level is a great achievement for someone hailing from the poverty-stricken San community.


Only a handful have completed Grade Seven and a visit to communities such as Mpilo village, Sifulasengwe, Butabubili and Mgodimasili in Tsholotsho District, paints a gloomy picture.

The narrative is, however, changing after Mr Nkosiyazi Brian Ncube (20), Mr Victor Moyo (21) and Mr Obvious Ndlovu (26) successfully enrolled for the Bachelor of Arts in Education Degree at the Midlands State University (MSU) last month.


Initially four had enrolled at the univesity but just a month into their studies one of them quit citing difficult working and studying conditions.


Between 7.30AM and 4.30PM the trio are menial job employees at MSU and attend lectures in the evening.


Their parents and guardians cannot afford to send them to university hence they are working to raise tuition fees and money for other needs.


Mr Ndlovu said poverty had shattered his dream to enrol at a university.


Almost five years after completing his advanced level, Mr Ndlovu says his dreams are back on track.


He says he is a pioneer not just in his family but among more than 3 000 San people living in Tsholotsho and Bulilima districts after he together with his colleagues successfully enrolled at MSU.


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