From van driver to MBA graduate: Siya Sibindi’s inspiring story

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Siya Sibindi in his work van
Siya Sibindi in his work van

By Denzel Nyathi


No one who has ever received a degree would say it came without obstacles. For some, however, those obstacles take the form of mountains. Through his journey of true grit and determination, Mr Siya Sibindi, who graduated with his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the recent Rhodes University 2022 graduation ceremonies, completed his degree despite near-impossible challenges.

As is, unfortunately, the case with many students, Siya struggled with raising funds to pay for his MBA, which he was funding himself.

“I was supposed to pay the fees on my own and had a very unstable job in Johannesburg. During my studies, I lost my job, which was my only source of income, and I relied heavily on faith to complete the degree. I resorted to being a mini-truck van driver for a grass-cutting company, which slowed me down because I would have to work up to 15 hours a day. Somehow, I still managed to put in enough time to complete my studies,” Sibindi shared.

Of course, in the unrelenting era of COVID-19, job scarcity is a significant factor, which makes the difficulty of fees all the more considerable. Unfortunately, the effects of the pandemic are not only felt socio-economically but even more so in the most personally heartbreaking ways.

“During all this, I lost my brother and sister due to COVID-19, both of whom I am very close to,” said Siya. “I considered quitting my studies, but got some encouragement from a dear friend.”

Thankfully, Siya didn’t quit and is now the proud holder of an MBA degree. He persevered, pushing through the harsh elements of the mountains he had to climb. Even within the most unfortunate and devastating circumstances, he found reasons to smile. To laugh, even. When asked about some of the highlights of the degree, he reflected fondly on his time spent in Makhanda.

“Experiencing the Rhodes University community by spending time in Makhanda, away from the buzz of Johannesburg, were some of the fondest memories of my journey. Those nighttime discussions and even arguments with classmates, with presentations lurking the following morning, are some of the highlights that made this programme worthwhile,” he shared. “The welcoming nature of the Rhodes Business School staff that treated me with dignity and respect is something that I will never forget.”

The issue of dignity and respect is vital for Siya Sibindi because when he accepted his degree, he walked away with much more than a piece of paper. “My family is so proud of my achievements. My hard work was not only for me but for the whole family,” he said. The Rhodes University community Siya so fondly recalls is excited for him and his fellow graduates as they go out into the world to be the best people they can be.