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The amount of support our Alumni has been contributing towards fundraising campaigns is heartwarming. Even though we have been able to see a positive difference in the lives of our Isivivane recipients since last year, watching them graduate this year made the remarkable and life-changing impact Isivivane has had on their lives clearly visible.


Upile Bongco, who has just graduated with a BA in Drama and Psychology (with distinction), is a fine example of what is possible with Isivivane.


 Isivivane Grad


Now one of our Absa sponsorship recipients, Ms Bongco was barely able to keep up with the financial and academic demands of her BA degree last year. Her father had been forced into an early retirement due to illness, and with her mother being a primary school teacher, and her sister studying with only a partial medical school bursary at Stellenbosch University, Ms Bongco had to juggle two jobs while trying very hard to excel during her third year at Rhodes. Although Ms Bongco was discouraged to apply for funding, since performing arts bursary grants are so uncommon, she applied to Isivivane anyway, and was rewarded with a partial bursary for the duration of her BA degree last year. 


“And here I am with a degree under my belt, and working towards an Honours Degree,” she said. “Before receiving funding, I had feared failure was my only option.”


Through community engagement, Ms Bongco has been using theatre as a platform to enlighten people about the dramatic effects certain issues, such as domestic abuse and mental illness, can have on the community. She uses what she has learned in Drama, Iintetho Zobomi and Psychology to empower and nurture people through the performing arts.


“I was, and still am, engaged in several activities that uplift the community. This year, I hope to tackle even more issues that speak to people. I think it is important to bridge the divide between Rhodes University and the local community, and this will be a further focus of my time and energy throughout 2018,” she said.


To secondary school learners wanting to progress to tertiary academia, Ms Bongco advised, “Getting a degree is a lot of hard work, but it is worth it. Furthering your studies can lead to immeasurable wisdom. From matric to now, my critical thinking skills have evolved significantly. So much of what we hear and know is wrong – and it’s only through pushing your levels of understanding about the world you live in that these things become clear.”


Ms Bongco recalled it was only after bumping into her admiring resident warden that her remarkable achievement as a graduate sunk in. “To all of those struggling as Rhodes University scholars, please don’t give up. Whenever the situation seems impossible, remind yourself about the bigger picture… the greater purpose. Ask yourself why you decided to take on this worthwhile challenge in the first place. You have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing – and when all hope seems lost, remember the counselling service is there for us. You will get tired, but you won’t fall down. Please, whatever you do, don’t give up – South Africa needs you.”



Contact Qondakele Sompondo at or visit our Isivivane page HERE to find out how you can contribute.