Asiphe describes his college experiences, and how he tried, tried and tried again…

It was on a Monday morning. My alarm woke me up at 05h30 am. I could hear the sounds of footsteps of people passing by my house on their way to catch a train. I warmed water on a paraffin primer stove, made up my bed and sorted out my outfit for the day. After taking my bath I then warmed my food from the previous night for breakfast.

I brushed my teeth in a rush and ran to join others on that journey to catch a train. At 07h00 in the morning I was in the train from Phillippi to Cape Town.

It was packed, full of passengers travelling to different destinations, some to work and some to school. Many of us were standing. I found it hard to breathe properly, the heat was unbearable. I’ve never been to hell but it felt like I was close to hell. Of course it was a Monday so for some strange reasons trains were delayed as usual. You would hear a Metrorail announcer singing that annoying song: “Trains are subject to delay, we apologise for the inconvenience.” As I heard this it felt like I was about to take my last breath.

I was late for my class as usual, thanks to Metrorail, I arrived when the lecturer had finished handing out test scriptures. He looked at me sternly.

“Mr. Beseti can you please come with me to my office,” he said. I stood up and followed him, my heart was beating like I was about to ask a girl out on a date. I was wondering what he wanted to talk about as we arrived at his office.

Uyatshona mfondini, yinton’ingxaki?” (You are failing. What’s the problem?) I was surprised that he could speak Xhosa. He showed me my script and asked me again, “Yintoni ingxaki?,

With tears on my eyes I responded, “Andiyazi.” (I don’t know.)

“If you fail my subject then you must register somewhere else because I don’t want to see you again in my class!” he said, while I looked down feeling tears on my cheeks.

“I won’t fail again,” I promised. But it was a promise I was not sure I’d be able to keep.

For me failing was so foreign, I had never failed before in high school. And here I was at varsity, not doing well on my studies. The study method I did in high school was not working I was getting the lowest marks ever. On the other side my friends were doing well, you can imagine the thoughts I had in my mind. I felt like I was stupid.

“Why can’t I pass like others? Maybe I should just quit this stupid course.”

Feeling down and disappointed in myself, I needed something to distract me. Fortunately I don’t drink or smoke, so I went to the library and picked up a book by Donald Trump titled Never Give Up. As I was reading the book I started to learn that some of the world’s greatest leaders failed at some stage of their lives.

I then realised that I had to seek help and consult my lecturers more often. Luckily a friend of mine introduced me to the Student Counselling Centre where I received counselling and they helped me to find a study method that might work for me. Even though I failed one subject and passed the other three I was so proud of myself.

My first year journey felt like self-discovery. I learnt more about myself, I found out who Asiphe Besethi really is – in a place full of thousand of my peers I found myself.

Coming to university for me was like breaking barriers. I was the first child from my mother to go to Varsity. I was registered for biotechnology, a course that someone once said, “A person coming from Township schools with no laboratories will never make it to science.” I had to prove him wrong. I found out about biotechnology at CPUT open day when I was doing grade 11. It was so interesting to me, the studies of microorganisms and viruses and how they cause disease and how can they can also benefit human beings.

So, despite all the obstacles of travelling to campus, going to bed with no food some nights and waking up the next morning to campus without eating breakfast and then all through the day on an empty stomach, I made it through to my second year carrying over one subject from first year. From there I was determined that I could make through all odds.

But, like they say, “life happens”. Things got worse. When I was about to write my final exams, my father passed away and I couldn’t attend his funeral. I failed all my exams and I was excluded from the course.

I took a six months break and went to work in a warehouse, then later in a call centre. I then decided to appeal and I got re-admitted to the course.

When I was working I only managed to save enough money for my registration. Now that I was back to campus I had to find ways to earn money to sustain myself, some of them interfered with my studies. I failed my exams again and I was excluded for the second time. At this point I had people telling me how stupid I am. My friends were graduating and some were buying cars.

While I was in the midst of all of that I had an accident and I lost full function of my left arm. It was like I was in a dark hole. “Why are all these bad things happening to me, why me?” I asked God as I prayed. “Was I born to suffer? I wish I could have died instead of going through all this pain.”

If killing myself was not a sin, I would have killed myself. Through all this darkness I remembered a Bible scripture Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” But I was not sure what the future held for me, and chances of being re-admitted to biotechnology were very limited.

But my girlfriend, Amahle, got me going: “Babe, I have never met anyone who so positive like you, you always encourage me. You can’t give up now, you have come too far. Appeal again. Just give it a try and see what they say. Ndiyakucela just do it for me.”

I appealed and got admitted even though there were some obstacles. This time around it was my last chance. It was now or never.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”

Eminem – Lose yourself was on repeat on my phone every morning on my way to campus.

I passed all of my subjects. I am now about to complete my in-service training where I am working on the production of peroxidases. I will be presenting my work in a microbiology conference in Limpopo, at CPUT research day and at CPUT WIL presentations in November. Next year in April I will be graduating. Boy, I can’t wait. It took me forever to complete my National Diploma, six years to be exact, but it was worth it. I NEVER GAVE UP!


Have you had any similar experiences? Tell us what you think.