People say there’s a strong woman behind every successful man, and it’s also correct that there’s a supportive mother behind every ambitious young man. Lindile Sigweba, from Gugulethu in Cape Town, never imagined himself as a Mathematics tutor at only nineteen – but his mom always knew even plant can even grow on concrete.

“I grew up in an extremely impoverished family. My parents were not well-educated; they couldn’t get to matric … cos of circumstances. My father was a carpenter and mother a cleaner. She later became a vendor, selling chips and biscuits,” Lindile recalls. He has two siblings , with him being the middle child.

As if making ends meet wasn’t hard enough, the Sigweba family was dealt a huge blow.

“It happened that my father lost his job after his boss committed suicide and he then struggled to get a permanent. My mother lost her income as well, just after I had started primary. The money she was getting from the stuff she sold wasn’t enough to maintain us, and I was the only one who was receiving a social grant. Her only option was to then go work at the farms. She’d come visit during month-ends and fortnights.”

Lindile soon learnt the hard way that a house, without a mom, is not a home. Life with their father grew worse and worse.

“He became physically abusive. He’d steal our money and frame us when our mother comes back. They’d fight a lot about that, and their relationship suffered to an extent that they separated. My father left with everything he owned, from spoons to beds. My father’s family tried to intervene but my mom wouldn’t budge as she had had enough.”

Young Lindile’s school work wasn’t going to escape unscathed after all that family feuding he was exposed to.

“I was too dedicated and determined at school but the conflict between my parents affected my academic performance. I couldn’t even go to my Grade 7 farewell ceremony as my mother couldn’t buy me clothes. One teacher offered to buy them for me as I came out as a top learner in my class, but I declined. I had to accept my situation and understand my mom would have taken me if she had the means. She tried her best to ensure I made it to high school.”

Not only his schooling reached a higher level in 2011, his challenges did too.

“I got to Grade 8 and my mother was still not working. She would pay for my transport with my social grant money. Things got more hectic. She struggled to pay for my fees and I’d often go to school without lunch. I remained determined and told myself, ‘I am here to learn, not to eat. If I give up now, nobody else will fulfil my dreams’.”

Lindile then got mixed in with the wrong crowd. “We sat at the back and made noise. My mother saw my performance was getting poorer even, and confronted me about it. I brushed it off by saying, ‘I don’t have lunch like other kids, so please leave me alone’. I knew I’d get a hiding every day for not doing my homework. Our parents were summoned to school every day.”

Lindile had to calculate his moves and find the right formula to life. “My Grade 9 teacher said I had a potential but I was wasting it. My teachers said they would love to see me become one of the kids who get awards. I had to change. My mom sat me down and told me why she couldn’t complete school and that she didn’t want me to end up like her. I had some introspection and realised I was the only one who could change the situation at home. Even Tata once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’.”

Lindile realised he had to add extra work and subtract bad friends if he wanted his life to equal success.

“I came out top in a controlled test we wrote. I [knew I had ] to study when I get home and only befriend people with the same goal. Friends couldn’t believe it when I came top in my tests, to an extent that I got top 10. My love for Maths developed cos my teacher just brought it into life. I started excelling in exams and moved from top ten, to position three.”

He adds that he had to attend after-school classes. “The environment didn’t allow me to study at home after school cos we shared a small room, so I had to come with other ways of studying. Matric was challenging. Circumstances were pulling the opposite direction but it was too late to give up then. I couldn’t watch my future go down the drain. I pushed and passed my matric with a ‘B’ symbol.” This ensured Lindile could apply for a Bachelor’s degree.

As if following his name ‘Lindile’ (which loosely translates to ‘He waited’), he had persevered and his hard work was eventually greatly rewarded. “I received an award for my matric performance and for doing a ‘scarce skill course’, which covers part of my tuition and other expenses.

Lindile was then admitted at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to study Mathematics and Statistical Science.

At this time, he says, “I decided that I wanted to plough back into the community using my mathematics skills and fortunately Ikamva Youth Centre was scouting for tutors.” He hoped to impart his experience and knowledge to others.

“I wanted to show people that your parents may not be educated, you may not have lunch at school, but success is attainable if you’re persistent and determined enough. Maths is hard and they lack motivation, so I thought they’d be encouraged if another young man shows them that it’s possible.”

Lindile says his mom’s as strong as a rock. “She’s very strong. I’ve never seen her cry in my entire life. She strives for what she wants. She always told us that when she didn’t have something, she doesn’t sleep until she gets it, saying: ‘I don’t know what to do but a plan will pan itself out’.”

Lindile has a word of advice for his peers.

“Ask yourself who you are and where do you see yourself in life. There’s a purpose for you here on earth, known for you before you were formed. You’re here to fulfil that purpose. Don’t let your background define who you are. Don’t let other people define you, be brave enough to tell them who you are,” he sums up, before rushing to his Maths tutoring sessions.