By Simnikiwe Kuali
In the days Sisipho Hamlomo attended school without shoes or a jacket, he never imagined that he would be a master’s graduate one day. Both his parents were unemployed, and the family relied on a social grant. Today, he is a proud Mathematical statistics master’s graduate.
Sisipho was born in East London and raised with his one older brother and three sisters; his sister is currently attending Rhodes University in the Education Department. He attended school at Phumula Primary School and then attended Tamaho Primary School. His family then relocated to the Eastern Cape in Centani. He matriculated in 2014 at Isolomzi Senior Secondary. “There were some moments when I felt like going to school was not worth it. My teacher would ask me why I was wearing a shirt when it was that cold, and I would lie and say I did not look at the weather. Mrs Dabula eventually decided to buy me my first school jacket”, he said.
Sisipho had to sell ice cream suckers on the beach in East London. During school holidays, he would use his four-wheeler bicycle to find and sell to customers. Although it was dangerous, he managed to make enough money to buy an entire school uniform when he was doing grade 9. He said, “even though I feared being judged by my peers and often judged by elders who thought I wanted nothing to do with school, I had no choice but to continue selling suckers as it was my only hope for a better future”. In grade 10, I had my first full uniform with a blazer and everything. He happily recounted that he was looking good; even his teachers were pleased about how neat and good looking he was.
During his school years, he did well in all his subjects, yet his performance in Mathematics was the worst; he hated Mathematics. The teacher he had in grade 11 – Ms Mgudlwa, was different. She was highly motivated, and she made him realise that he has the mathematical acumen and capability to do well in mathematics. Because there was little space to study at home, he would stay late at school to continue to do his work. He would even leave at midnight to go back home, and even if it was raining, he had to walk in the dark with his phone torch.
In 2015, he took a gap year and taught mathematics in his previous high school. He applied to Rhodes University (with funding from Rural Education Access Programme) to study BSc in Mathematics. His advice to students: “Success is always a process, never an event. Live each day proud of all the things you have acquired and remember where you came from”.