Talking from her home in Dambuza, near Pietermaritzburg, 23-year-old Shamila Mpinga said she achieved this through the love, kindness and support of her extended family and the Muslim community.
With her mother working away from home, she was raised by an aunt and uncle. “My mother always ensured that I was well taken care of,” she said.
“I was also taught independence at a young age. I voluntarily started working at the age of 12, mostly as a cashier at local shops, and have not stopped since,” said Shamila.
She subsequently received a scholarship to study law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
After her first year of study, she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for being among the top 25 first-year students.
After completing a degree summa cum laude, she read for a Master’s in Mineral Law at the University of Cape Town, where she was awarded the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship in 2017.
After a process, Shamila has now been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to study for an MSc in law and finance and an MBA at the University of Oxford.
She said the doors of education had opened to her after she was awarded a bursary to attend the Maritzburg Muslim School for Girls.
“I have truly felt the effects of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I’m the first person in my family to get a degree,” she adds.