We meet Siphowosoxolo Qoyo, an Axium alumni. He was born and raised in Mzungwanini, a small village between Hole in the Wall and Zidindi, near Mqanduli, Eastern Cape. He is the second born out of three siblings. He did his primary schooling at Ntekelelo Junior Secondary School. After passing his grade 9 Siphowosoxolo went to Milton Dalasile SSS. Let’s hear from him, about how his journey was:
“After matric, I furthered my studies at Rhodes University. Everything was new about university life; the environment, academic challenges and I personally changed. Computers and English became the main issues. Axium did a wonderful job by allowing us an opportunity to talk and practise these things, but even so, English and Computers became way too advanced for me. I have always been someone who is able to do things on their own. I say this because in grade 12 my maths teacher was on maternity leave for about six months and everything I learnt that year had to be hustled. I am a hard worker and that encouraged me to study hard and find myself all the help I needed when I did not understand a concept in class.
Socially, things started off very bad for me. I grew up in an environment where there was, and still is, no electricity, meaning there was also no television at home. You would find other learners talking about what is trending and what they saw on TV and I would be clueless and that made me shy. Back home I was known to be very talkative and hyped up but I couldn’t click with many people because I would be lost and confused when other students were having a conversation. This became a dilemma so much so that I started shying away from other people.
Growing up I wanted to be a pilot and the only university I knew that existed was the one closest to my home, Walter Sisulu University. This dream motivated me to choose the Science stream in Grade 10. I was hung up on this whole pilot ‘thing’ for years until Axium took us to Zithulele Hospital for a career exhibition in grade 11. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a pharmacist. I left the hospital with a decision to work hard because my grade 11 results were not impressive at all and there was no chance I was going to change my mind about it.
At university, I was academically challenged. It got really bad, to the point where I was almost academically excluded in my second year. To avoid this, I applied the teachings of Axium - that in order to go places you must be able to humble yourself and ask for help when you need it. I decided to go on a scouting trip and I met a group of six guys. This was the best decision of my life. Before Axium I never knew the importance of group work because I had always been a smooth walker in my academics during my primary and secondary phase. I appreciate the organisation and my Axium teachers for introducing me to this effective value as it has helped me out in life immensely.
What motivated me to continue with school was because I had no other option but to study. My father died when I was very young and my mother did not have the means to give us everything that we needed. We were known for struggling in my community. There was a time where my older brother wanted to quit school just so he could go and look for a job so he could take care of us. Whenever I felt like leaving school, I would think about the number of times that my brother had tried looking for a job and would come back disappointed. I vowed to not put myself through that. There are many people I grew up with who decided to quit school to find work but they are not working even today. I remember when I was in high school, my mother went to find a job at Mthatha and she got one as a helper, but it was difficult for her and she would come back different with weight loss. This all made me decide that I will study throughout the hardships, not for me but for my family. I decided to be selfless at this stage and time of my life. There was no one supporting me because there was no money at home so I applied for a bursary and this made things bearable for me. However, when I got my bursary I also had to send some money home to support my family.
I finished my BPharm in 2018 and after graduation I did a year-long internship at Steve Biko Academic hospital. After that I worked at Canzibe Hospital as part of the bursary obligation as it was stated that I had to serve in the rural areas. After fulfilling my community service, finding a job proved to be very difficult. Earlier this year I received a call requesting me to be one of the pharmacists that will be assisting with COVID-19 vaccinations. They placed me at Zithulele hospital since I am from Mqanduli and this is close to home. My role in this programme as a pharmacist was to ensure the vaccination process was done accordingly. Being part of the vaccine rollout has been amazing. I believe this vaccine will be a solution for this virus but unfortunately I will not be around to see it through since I will no longer be part of the vaccination process as I will be taking up a permanent position at another hospital which I’m excited about.
Advice I would give to students who are in a place where I was five years ago is that you should know where you are going in life and be focused and be brave to face your challenges. You must not have pride because if you are a proud person you will not be able to seek help when you are facing difficulties. Also you must be able to prioritize your time. Socializing is vital but putting it before your academics is not ok. Always check yourself, ensure that you check your direction every week and if you see that you have lost direction, think about how you are going to get back on track.
I am a qualified pharmacist now and I have been applying for jobs, so I am very hopeful that I will be working somewhere after the vaccine roll-out. My actual goal is to open my own pharmacy. I have been procrastinating in terms of researching and taking a step towards this direction because I know once I take that step, I will have to be all in and I believe I am not yet ready for a time consuming project like this one as yet.”
The direct translation of Siphiwosoxolo’s name is ‘the gift of forgiveness’. It seems that Siphiwosoxolo is indeed a gift to his family and to our community! Through his incredible dedication and perseverance he has brought hope for the end of economic hardships his family has endured and is an inspiring role model to many students who will follow in the path that he has carved. We have no doubt that you will achieve everything you set your mind to and wish you all the best in your endeavours!