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Answers to Life, Learning and Happiness from a Youth

Tenele is the author of popular post ‘Tenele’s Story – My Journey up the NQF.’ Her moving story reflects the challenges of life and the quiet dignity of youth who persevere through struggles.


Her Story

Like many young Africans, Tenele has lived in different parts of the continent before finding her father’s home tribe in South Africa.

As a contributor to the Keep Climbing spirit – that spirit that makes you get up and go to keep climbing higher, we asked her a few questions about her life choices, dreams and learning:

As a child, what did you dream of becoming?

I had so many dreams career wise, but one that really fascinated me was being a lawyer.

What stood out about school?

I enjoyed Literature and History, I had to read a lot and as a result I not only unearthed the reader in me, but I found a way to escape my harsh realities. Both subjects have helped me as an adult in that it’s made me an open-minded person who’s always looking to learn more.

Literature, for example, exposed me to the culture of Nigeria, through reading such books as “Things Fall apart”. So when I got to tertiary I sort of had an idea of who our Nigerian brothers and sisters were. I got along with them well because I had lots to talk about because of the books I had read.

I read a book called ‘A Man of the People’ which opened my mind into the world of corrupt leaders. So growing up and looking at how different governments of the world are run, just shows me how corruption is such an old disease that has always infested our leadership.

I loved History too but I think I only got to really understand the psychology of those in leadership who led the wars against other countries as I grew older. When I reflect on such leaders as Idi Amin of Uganda, I see a broken man, who had no role model as his father left home when he was young. He joined the British Army as an assistant cook and rose up the echelons and eventually plotted a coup and overthrew the then president. Such leadership has taught me that there is more to people than meets the eye. That we all a broken inside and the question is in how each one chooses to deal with that brokenness. Some people choose to have power at the expense of the powerless. They take advantage of the common masses to satisfy their own desires. These are extreme cases.

I suppose being exposed to such has helped me to learn to not be too quick to judge people, because everyone has issues. The only difference is that some people’s issues are deeper than others, everyone chooses to deal with theirs the best possible way they think – despite how the rest of us choose to perceive it.

It shows me that things are not always black and white.

About Studying Marketing Management

I studied at Midrand Graduate Institute in Johannesburg and received a degree in Marketing Management. To achieve this you write about 3 tests and complete assignments for each module in order to qualify for an exam. You needed to get an average of 60 percent across all modules to be eligible for exams. 

Living in Northgate, I used to commute to and from Midrand every day. I would get a taxi to town and then connect from town to Midrand, same thing when returning. I had classes from 8:30 in the morning till 5:00 pm in the afternoon.

Studying would get tricky due to fatigue, especially so when we had tests. They all happened at almost the same time as each lecturer expected us to write a test for their module. (Meaning you had to prepare for more than one test at a time.) I would get home and sleep, then wake up really early like 3 in the morning to study. So I usually started my day at 3 in the morning.

If that didn’t happen, I bunked classes I knew I could catch up on real quick to make some time to study.

What did you learn about your fellow students and lecturers while studying?

I learnt that people can be selfish. For example in the case of group assignments where someone would not pull their weight and yet gain the hard work of others.

I also learnt that some people are not always welcoming of fellow Africans. Lets leave it there.

Some students led double lives. For example, you would find people from strict religious backgrounds being involved in activities that they wouldn’t normally be involved in back home, such as alcohol abuse. (Although I have no problem with drinking, how much of it you can handle is important. For some people alcohol alters their behaviour, they forget who they are). For some it was due to peer pressure and wanting to fit in, others were just experimenting for the sake of doing it but the consequences were terrible.

People come from different backgrounds, our school was made up of people from different parts of Africa and abroad. A lady from Malawi who told me that in her culture, it is the woman iwho pays dowry / bride price (lobola). You are treated as an adult. But when you showed commitment and dedication to your work, they were open to the husband. I found this to be very ridiculous and unfair for the woman, especially if as a woman you are expected to bear children and take care of the house chores. It was an interesting thing to learn. In the Zulu culture (my culture, my dad was Zulu), the future hubby pays the lobola. And then this friend of mine from China, Chan, he told me that in china they actually have 7 languages, something I wasn’t aware of since I thought there was only one language everyone spoke. lol. it was quite enlightening.

I established some really good friendships and that taught me that some people will really genuinely love others unconditionally.

As far as the lecturers were concerned, I learnt that if you didn’t work hard as a student no one had the time of day to be following up with you and check whether you are doing your work or not, but if you showed commitment they would channel  you through the right channels to get the best .

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study?

I think the first advice I would give someone is that they should have full knowledge of why they want to study that particular programme.

Know how it’s going to help you in terms of your career aspirations.

I didn’t like Marketing therefore I didn’t put any effort into researching and finding out more about the programme. My only concern was to pass and get out of there.

Next, whatever you decide to study, have passion for it. Because when it gets tough, your love for the qualification helps you push yourself. Studying doesn’t become a burden, it becomes just another way for you to discover and learn more about your beloved programme and qualification.

Have passion for it! Because when it gets tough, your love for the qualification helps you push through.

What makes you happy?

Being a blessing to someone makes me happy. I’m learning to not always make things about me all the time. I remember the times I always wished someone would appear from nowhere and just give me money or whatever it is I will be looking for, so I figured if I could have such crazy wishes, i’m sure there are millions of others wishing the same. so why not start being somebody’s angel. No matter how puny the act of selflessness maybe , just do it. It always starts small. remember, a journey of a thousand miles began with one step…

Thank you for your inspiration and lovely words of hope Tenele!

Tenele’s tips for finding a qualification deserves another mention:

  1. Do research about the qualification and why you want to do it

  2. Be passionate!!!

Read Tenele’s personal story of triumph


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Comments (2)

  1. Leonine, this is outstanding! I don’t think that we use this resource to the fullest. I am very impressed. All the best Barry

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