Growing up for Roger Bukuru, 24, was not all sunshine and roses. Roger’s life was tough, really tough.

Roger, his dad and his younger brother moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to South Africa in 2001, about 19 years ago. As one can imagine, moving to a new country was anything but easy, especially since they didn’t speak the language. But the real misfortune and suffering came when Roger was abused, both physically and emotionally by his then step-mom.

“Growing up was quite rough. I was abused in all forms and shapes, from physical abuse to emotional abuse. The abuse took place over a period of nine years.”

After so many years, the question as to how Roger handled the entire situation lingered. He expressed that he tried to sweep it under the rug, but he subconsciously always carried the emotional scars. He says that the only way for him to deal with it was to forgive, accept what happened and to move past it.

Since there was no mother present in the life of Roger and his brother, and his two younger half-siblings Roger had to step up and take the lead.

“Another difficult thing about growing up – not having a stable mom – resulted in me playing a mother figure role to my siblings for quite some years and balancing that with school work.”

Roger started to cook when he was only in grade four.

Throughout Roger’s schooling career, he was in a number of schools; 10 to be exact. “Was always a nightmare because you’d always experience being the outsider and there was always the sense of racism.”

Despite the constant changing of schools, Roger was awarded the opportunity to attend Cape Academy, a math and science school in Cape Town. He was incredibly smart, outgoing and determined.

This hard work paid off as Roger was accepted at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he triple- majored in mathematical statistics, computer science and finance.

“Really enjoyed what I was doing. Didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to do something I didn’t enjoy.”

The cost of studying at UCT was an expensive one and through hard work and dedication, Roger managed to reduce his fees by obtaining small bursaries and with the help of his parents, his dad and new step-mom.

Roger expresses that he’d love to go back to DRC someday and that although he is grateful for the opportunities that he’s been awarded in South Africa, it doesn’t feel like home here.

“I am grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been provided to be able to be educated in this country, but beyond that I wouldn’t say that South Africa is my home.”

He explains that xenophobia was something that he experienced; something that his family experienced. He remembers particular cases when going to Home Affairs, where he had the worst experience and was made to feel like an outcast. In many ways the experiences were degrading.

When asked what he’s currently doing with his life Roger replies, “At this point in my life I’m chasing my dreams.”

Roger finished his studies last year, 2019, and is currently working as an entrepreneur, for his company, Lipa, working as a software engineer and data scientist.

“Having the opportunity to work for myself and not take a corporate job; not many people have the luxury to start their own thing.”

Roger says he is quite content and looking forward to how things unravel.

The life lessons that Roger always carries with him is, “To always give 110% of myself in all that I do. Like if I do fail and I did my best then okay cool this was not meant for me.”

Roger believes it’s important to make sure things are in order in his own ‘room’ before commenting about others’ and before judging others. He also makes it clear that his faith is really important, “My faith; that sets the foundation, that is built on something that is bigger than myself.”

To keep him on his toes Roger says, “I always try to make sure that I’m not the smartest person in the room. Once I’m the smartest person in the room, then maybe I’m in the wrong room.”


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Tell us: What aspirations can you draw from Roger’s story?