“I’ve always felt like an outsider because I never had a nuclear family” – Dimakatso’s story
Torn between two parents, going to bed hungry and a lack of fees to study may seem like a setup for failure. But Dimakatso’s journey suggests otherwise. She shares her story in pictures with us
Caught in the middle
I was born in 1993 and raised by my grandmother, Vuyelwa, in the township of Boipatong. I lived with my parents at some point but it was only for a short while. My parents did not always get along and that had a huge impact on me psychologically. Having to “choose” between the two at a young age really hit me hard. I think all my life I’ve just struggled with feeling like an outsider because I never had a nuclear family like everybody else.
The pain of poverty and losing my mother
My grandmother was not wealthy but she did the best she could for me. She always wanted to see me happy and did everything in her power to ensure my well-being. We really struggled at one stage and I got to experience what it was like to go to bed on an empty stomach. There were a few instances where she either sold my old baby clothes or borrowed money, just so we could have something to eat . That’s how I got to feel and see what poverty looked like and, having experienced it, I told myself I would never go hungry again – ever!
Losing my mother at an early age also shaped me, not only to be a strong young lady but to pursue my goals as well. Lord knows the pressure of being a young girl with no mother, a father whom you do not live with, and raised by your extended family. You do not want to disappoint yourself and those who helped raised you.
And then there are those ones who want to see if you will become a stat. No mother + no education = unwed young mother + life led by alcohol and/or a man. That’s what they expected. Some were brave enough to say it to my face, “We didn’t think you would ‘survive’ having lost your mother.”
My goals in life
The kind of environment I grew up in motivated me to better myself and hopefully, in the process, make the lives of those around me better as well. I pushed myself at school because I knew the kind of life I wanted one day, and what I did not want to experience again or have my kids go through.
Enrolling in varsity was a struggle of its own. I did not apply for any bursary or study loan during my matric year and, as a result, I had good results – but no money to study. That was probably the biggest mistake of my life and a definite lesson learned. I cried myself to sleep for a couple of nights because I wanted to go to varsity and further my studies.
Luckily a family member came through for me. One relative hooked me up with registration money and another took out a personal loan, allowing me to pay my fees and get my school books that year. The other years I was smart enough to apply for a student loan. Now I’m a graduate, with a loan to pay off and family to take care of.