‘If you climb fast enough, pull others up’

Fourth-year medical student Lindokuhle Mazibuko tutors school children in Khayelitsha to help improve their marks.
It was the African proverb “if you climb up fast enough, you must pull others up” that inspired fourth-year medical student Lindokuhle Mazibuko to start a tutorship project for Khayelitsha school children, aimed at improving their marks. 
 
Mazibuko, from KwaZulu-Natal, started tutoring the pupils during his first year at Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2016 and the project has gone from strength to strength. Now he wants to start producing tutorial videos to reach a wider audience. 
 
Mazibuko believes his personal story is a great inspiration to the pupils he assists in a number of subjects, ranging from maths to life sciences. 
 
When he was a pupil at the Amangwane High School in Bergville, rural KZN, he was the first ever beneficiary of the KZN education department’s High Flyers programme for top matriculants. The programme helped top achievers from rural schools to achieve excellent matric results by enlisting the help of top teachers and subject advisors. 
 
His story captured the public imagination. His beloved grandmother, Nokuthula Mazibuko, sent him off with a bottle of water that had been prayed over to drink when he felt unwell. He assured his supporters he wouldn’t disappoint them. 
 
Mazibuko achieved nine distinctions in matric and enrolled in the medicine programme at SU in 2016. Since then he has excelled, not only academically but also on the saxophone! 
 
His best friend since Grade R, Samukelo Nxumalo, who was also part of the programme and studies earth sciences at SU, is also involved in the project. 
 
Mazibuko started tutoring pupils when a fellow medical student and friend, Khulasande Nqabeni, who was involved with Khayelitsha’s Iqhayiya High School, told him the learners needed help with certain subjects. “I love those subjects, so I told him if he doesn’t mind, I will go with him and teach. I started going along in my spare time to help teach math probability, then general maths and physics and then other subjects.” 
 
These days he goes whenever he can – “usually on Saturdays and Sundays and sometimes during the week, depending on my schedule on campus or whether I have a clinical rotation”. 
 
His classes range from 20 to 60 pupils and the principal has made the sessions compulsory. Nqabeni is still involved and the pair work closely together. 
 
Now in his fourth year of tutoring, Mazibuko has found that the pupils struggle with maths the most. 
 
“These kids are so keen and cooperative. I don’t have any problems with discipline and attendance is good. I think it’s because I am young. They relate to me. They see somebody who went through similar problems, but who did well in matric and is now studying medicine.” 
 
Mazibuko is in the process of registering a society to recruit more students. Some students sometimes volunteer to help out during weekends.  
 
“My friend from KZN, Samkelo, obtained his BSc in earth sciences last year and is currently doing his honours degree. We still work very closely together. Two years ago he started a tutoring programme back home. During the holidays, students from our community who are fortunate enough to attend university, offer extra classes to the matric pupils. We are currently working with eight schools back home.” 
 
Mazibuko recently decided tutorial videos for the pupils they help would make a big difference. “Reach is a very big problem, especially if I am not able to go to Khayelitsha for whatever reason. Most of the learners don’t have internet access, so I thought why not make videos for the kids.” 
 
However, this endeavour has proven to be a big challenge. “I’ve done a few videos, but the quality is poor. I am looking for funding for a camera,” he said. “Once we have the camera, we will make good quality videos for all the subjects. I have big dreams for this.” 
 
Asked what drives him, Mazibuko said: “My community drives me. I come from a place where only 10 out of 200 matric pupils go to university and graduate. That must change. I want young people from poor backgrounds to see that it’s possible to overcome adversity. I want to instil a culture of hard work among my people.” 
 
Asked about his motivation for the tutoring, he said he just wants to help out. “I enjoy the art of delivering information in a precise, simplified manner. Helping someone understand something is priceless.”  
 
Mazibuko said he believes education in South Africa is in a bad way. “There’s only so much that teachers can do to help. These students come from communities that are extremely poor. Most of them don’t have access to basic needs that one would need to study effectively. It’s very tricky. They need all the help they can get. Tutoring is only one part; mentoring them and keeping them motivated is key. “ 
 
Mazibuko plans to specialise in neurology and then return to his hometown to start a clinic where the poor can receive free treatment. His other future goals include promoting health care, establishing a world-class research facility and attaining 1 000 publications before he is 60. 
 
And when he’s not working towards all this, he loves listening to music, watching Key and Peele videos on YouTube, keeping up with politics and spending time with friends.
Sue Segar