All roads led to university

UpLearn Success Article Bashombana

From Bashombana’s first day at university in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attaining his qualification at UpLearn in 2022, the road to completing his degree was a long and onerous one. Bashombana’s pursuit of a university education was filled with barriers, but he refused to give it up. Making use of the support structures within the UpLearn team, and his own grit and determination, Bashombana can finally say that he is a university graduate.  

A dream derailed  

Bashombana completed his high school career in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and was set on his journey toward becoming a doctor. Sadly, in his first year of studying medicine, Bashombana was forced to press pause on his dreams as the political instability in DRC forced him to leave home in search of safety. This led him to South Africa, where he was hoping to be able to continue his studies.   

He needed an income to pay for his university fees, but once in South Africa, Bashombana struggled to find employment. Eventually, he found a job as a security guard, but the job was not well paid. He then sought out the help of various bursaries and scholarship schemes for funding. Unfortunately, these attempts were rejected – in South Africa, public tertiary funding opportunities are only available to South Africans and private funding is not easy to come by.  

This forced Bashombana to make the difficult decision to stop pursuing his education. “It was impossible for me to start thinking first of being at the university before having money for rent and food.” He had to move forward with life in a different way. “I decided to live my life. I had a family. I got married and had my first child.” 

Although Bashombana’s journey took a different route, he never stopped thinking about studying. “I told myself that if it would require that I sit in the same class as my daughter, I would still try to have a university degree”. 

I told myself that if it would require that I sit in the same class as my daughter, I would still try to have a university degree

 A decision made for family  

In a short space of time, Bashombana worked his way up from the security guard of a factory to the factory shop manager. This gave him the confidence to approach the company he was working for to fund his studies, and they agreed. Bashombana could finally press play on his dreams again and registered to study Logisitics and Management through UNISA.  

In his first semester at UNISA, the company that he was working for went into liquidation and shut its doors. He was retrenched and forced to halt his studies, again. “From there, I told myself I am not going to speak about school anymore. I had a family to look after, so I had to look for any work that I could find.” And that was what Bash did. He went on to work in various industries, finding mostly contract work, for the next little while.  

The fourth attempt  

In 2018, a friend of Bashombana’s contacted him about an opportunity to study through Scalabrini’s UpLearn Programme – UpLearn supports students through academic coaching and leadership development on a competency-based degree with Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) Global Education Movement. Would this be the time that it worked out? Again, without wasting any time, Bashombana applied to UpLearn and was accepted. By this stage, Bashombana was driving for Uber. This allowed him some flexibility to study while being able to support his family, but it was not without its challenges.  

Bashombana’s family had grown to four – with his wife struggling to find employment, he was the sole breadwinner. Uber drivers earn their income on the road – being at the UpLearn lab to use the computers meant losing out on driving time and the money that could have been earned then. Bashombana persisted and “by the skin of my teeth”, he passed his first two years (Associate of Arts degree).  

The second half of his degree turned out to be the most challenging.  

A time of grief and grit 

It was the year 2020 and for Bashombana like many people, the lockdown meant no income. With the stress of no money coming in, Bashombana struggled to concentrate on his studies. Tragically during this time, Bashombana’s brother passed away, and together with his pregnant wife, they lost their baby eight months into their pregnancy. Bashombana and his family were living with a mixture of grief and stress, but he was not going to give up! Instead he tapped into the support structures available to him.  

Bashombana credits the support that he received from UpLearn for getting him through. “At this time, we were offered laptops which made it easier to work from home. We also received data that allowed us to submit our projects remotely. Most importantly, the follow-ups from the coaches made sure we remained on track. I must especially mention [to] Christine Kalala, who was my coach then. At the time, I told her I was giving up as everything was not going well. Her advice kept me grounded until I finished the programme.’’ The UpLearn Team was a pillar of strength for Bashombana during this difficult time. The Welfare Team also stepped in by providing him with food assistance. 

A university graduate  

Bashombana now holds a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in Operations and Logistics. He remains a familiar face within UpLearn, as he volunteers his time to help coach the current cohort of UpLearn students. “I think that is what motivates me to always come here, despite the financial challenges that I might have, to give back to this programme. I now have this degree that will increase my chances of being employed somewhere, but the programme itself also teaches you other things, like how to respect people. Even if I don’t get a job with it, it changed me as a man”.