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ADM official cannot help herself from rescuing lost young rural souls

Municipal spokesperson Madikizela-Vuso opens her home and purse for those desperate to study

Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso mentors aspiring students from rural communities apply for tertiary education and internship programmes.
Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso mentors aspiring students from rural communities apply for tertiary education and internship programmes.
Image: SUPPLIED

Many government officials have never forgotten being barefoot and hungry at a rural school. But Amathole district municipality spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso, 39, takes it a big step further — she is physically, emotionally and psychologically unable to stop herself from helping those in need.

Her efforts start with a trained eye: she can spot a lost and frightened young rural soul a mile away. In her church, in the streets of Buffalo City, she sees them with their telltale big plastic bags.

It is instinctual. She swoops in, fires off a few questions and then away they go to her luxury home in Bunkers Hill where her husband and two children, by now well accustomed to the good works of their mother and wife,  open their arms to welcome the latest rural education seeker.

Madikizela-Vuso started her non-profit organisation Rise Underprivileged Kid (RisUK) during the pandemic to bring aid to her rural home, Mbhongweni village at Bizana. 

“I know what it’s like walking home barefoot because your parents can’t afford shoes. I’ve always been a champion for education.”

Her own schooling was at a number of schools around the country but the experience of growing up in a poor village left an indelible memory.   

“Sometimes you don’t have a school bag and carry your books in a plastic bag. When you grow up in the village you don’t have much to aspire to.”

Madikizela-Vuso’s home gets busy in January when young matriculants arrive from villages in a struggle to find placement at local colleges and universities.

“You can spot a child from a village. They are carrying a huge bag, so I greet them and ask why they are in the city. They often say they haven’t been accepted at university yet. I take them into my home. Shame, I feel sorry for my husband. Sometimes I just rock up with four girls and say they will stay here for two weeks.”

The family provides food and shelter and Nonceba drives the hopeful youngsters to the waiting lines. 

“I also look at their matric results and offer informal career counselling. I ask, why do you want to do this? Mostly they choose a degree because they know someone else in the village who studied the same thing. But how you choose a career is based on what you love.  

“I met a girl from Bizana whose grades were not good and she hadn’t obtain a bachelor’s entrance pass. After two weeks of trying to get her accepted, I asked her, if your family had money, what would you want to do? She said she would go back to school and repeat matric. So I said, pack your bags, you’re going back to school, I will pay for everything. By the end of that year she obtained her bachelor’s.” 

Madikizela-Vuso studied at the Eastern Cape Technikon, now Walter Sisulu University (WSU), and obtained a master’s in public relations management from Durban University of Technology.

She was an unpaid intern at the department of water & sanitation and Transnet for two years. “You don’t have sufficient food or toiletries. I was supported by a neighbour whose child was in the same department I was in. This is partly why I’m doing this — we need each other. Our employment sector requires that you have to have two years’ experience but there is no space for new graduates. I knew I had to do this for free just to get in.”

From her first days in a fulltime job in Johannesburg, she assisted people in any way, with food or clothing.

RisUK has adopted four schools in her home village area around Bizana: Cangci High, Mbekwa Primary, Mbhongweni Primary and Mbhongweni High.

She was overwhelmed by the nomination.

Nominator Bongi Mashalaba said: “Noni is relentless in facilitating student success. She has helped young people, especially those unconfident or information-poor, to find a natural-fit career.”

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