Carol Ndlovu

An uncertain future awaited Carol Ndlovu – until Moshal stepped in and set her on her path to following her passion

 Carol Ndlovu could tell you a thing or two about the advantages of being hooked to TV dramas. She’s no couch potato – what little spare time she has when not hitting the books is spent at gym – but, given a day off at home, you’re likely to find her binge watching CSI.

Her fascination for medical detective dramas has had a positive spin-off: it’s led to her following her dream. Carol is now at Wits University, studying towards a career that could see her besting any of the characters she follows so closely in the popular series.

“I fell in love with how they use science to solve crimes and I knew from that moment that I wanted to study the sciences,” she says of a passion that stirred in Grade 7, when she also discovered an affinity for natural sciences. “When I was doing grade 11, I got a 95% in my life sciences exams and that’s when I knew that I wanted to make a career of it. After my studies I would like to work for the CSIR as a medical researcher or medical cell biologist so that I can lend a helping hand in understanding diseases and come up with better treatments.”

Carol is not ruling out returning to university later to complete her masters and a PhD. First though, she has to get through this phase of her life, which is in itself a feat. Now in her third year majoring in genetics and physiology – “because I’ve always been fascinated by science and I think it’s amazing to know that there’s more to a human being than just what we see on the outside” – university seemed a far off dream when Carol completed matric in 2014.

She had no means of furthering her education. “I had to stay at home for all of 2015 and spent that year running up and down looking for scholarships and bursaries.” That’s how she met the founder of the Bear Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at empowering young women through education, leadership, and support.

“I started to tell her my story and she took my contact details and said she  could help me secure finds for my studies. That’s when I became part of the foundation and I help them with events or motivate those who are still in high school and want to go to university as well,” she explains.

Priceless opportunities

The Bear Foundation helped her access the Moshal Scholarship, which Carol defines as “an achievement”. “It’s not just about the money – it feels like I’m being given a priceless chance to make my dreams come true and be able to go back to my mother and say I’ve now found the tool to build a better life for you,” she reveals.

“Without this program I would probably be working at a retail shop, with good marks from matric but have nothing to show for it, my dreams would be shattered. It is more than any student could ask for; not only is it helping me financially, it is also preparing me for the working world and helping to be a well-rounded person,” adds Carol.

The Moshal Program is also guiding her dream, she says, which is to “buy my mother a house and tell her that she won’t have to work anymore because I will take care of her”.

Carol and her younger brother live with their mom in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, where her mother is a domestic worker and waitress.

She was raised by her mother, grandmother and aunt, and spent four years in Zimbabwe with her grandmother, returning to Diepsloot to complete grades 6 and 7 at Muzomuhle Primary School while living with her aunt.

“My childhood wasn’t the best,” she admits, recalling having to take a 45-minute walk to and from school daily in Zimbabwe. “If I was late I’d get punished with a stick,” she adds.

When she returned to South Africa, she faced bullying and xenophobia, she reveals. “In my 6th grade I was the youngest and I struggled a lot because I had to adapt to the learning system and when I started doing well, other girls would tease me for the Zimbabwean accent that I had at that time. They would call me a kwerekwere.”

That did not stop Carol from doing well, and making the most of her high school years despite having to constantly move house, as her mom kept searching for better jobs. Her mother, she says is an inspiration to her “because with the little that she had she managed to raise me and my little brother and she did not need a degree for it. She tells me everyday that if you do the work you will see results,” says Carol.

The drive to succeed has Carol focused on her studies. Apart from her regular gym routine – “It’s like therapy to me,” she says – her time is mostly spent on her studies. “I want to be the best medical biologist in South Africa so that I can motivate other girls to also build a career in science,” says Carol. This driven young woman is clearly living up to her favourite quote:

Do not go where the path my lead but take a different direction to pave your own path and leave your trail.”