It is not a secret that there is an uneven distribution of resources in the country, and that majority of the people live below the poverty line. Many a times, people have to fight tooth and nail in order to make it out of destitute and make something of themselves.
Today we visit such a story, the story of a medical doctor who made it against all odds, Dr Colani Shongwe. Dr Shongwe was born and raised in the villages of Mpumalanga, Lekazi, Entokozweni. His family was not well off and this put him under immense pressure. He finished high school at the age of 18 and due to lack of funds, had to find small jobs instead of heading straight to varsity.
When he started varsity at the university of the Witwatersrand in 2010, he was 21 years old and as such, one of the oldest people in his class. He says that this did not deter him because he knew and believed that life is not a competition and that comparison was the thief of joy.
Medical school was not without hurdles and he has had to repeat some years, moreover at some point he did not have funding for his studies. He says that these were the most challenging of the days and he felt like quitting. “Having to repeat a year or a rotation, I felt like quitting a number of times. However, the thought of the price at the end and knowing that I have a family and siblings that look up to me made me persevere”, he says with a smile.
9 years of medical school, he is finally a qualified doctor and is busy with his internship at a local hospital in the Far East. He says this too is challenging, due to the long hours and calls. “What’s most challenging about the work space is having to put in the hours. Some days you just don’t feel like it and are tired from 18 hours calls but you still have to show up.”
He says however, that it is all worth it and that the gratification that comes from treating patients, especially the elderly and kids, makes his days as he navigates through the corridors of the hospital. “…the ‘Thank you, may God bless you’, from an elderly when you’ve simply done your job never ceases to warm my heart”.
To the young kids who plan on pursuing medicine afterwards, he says to never give up and that the benefits lie ahead. He encourages people like him, whose parents cannot afford their fees, to make sure they get funding before they get to varsity in the form of bursaries or NSFAS.