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Access To Success 2017: Philisa Mzuku

Access To Success 2017: Philisa Mzuku wants to travel the world, do research and give back

For final year BA student Philisa Mzuku, 20, studying Psychology ,sociology and Language and Communication Studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has been a fascinating experience - and also a challenging one, thanks to financial difficulties.

“In my first-and second year I didn’t have any funding for my studies. There were times when I didn’t attend class - because I simply didn’t have the money for it.  But the Access to Success Campaign has really reduced the burden, and helped me focus on my studies.”

The Access to Success campaign, running from 7 August to 31 August 2017,  focuses on providing much-needed funding to students who are performing well academically, but who cannot afford university fees.

The Dunoon, Cape Town resident lives with her family - my mother, my father and my four siblings (she’s the second-born and also the second one to go to university). After matriculating from Inkwenkwezi Secondary School, she decided to study at UWC for two reasons: the swift response to her application, and the fact that her sister was already at the university, studying Nursing.

“I could adapt so much better since she was leading me and helped me in every new step on my path as a new student at UWC,” Philisa explains.

But having a sibling as a fellow student didn’t help with one important aspect: the significant challenges she faced on on the financial front.

“We struggled a lot because I am not the only one who had to make use of transport when attending school every day, and I also didn’t have assistance when it came to food,” she says. “My dad was the only one working and the money meant for food was mostly spent on buying textbooks and course readers - and we both have other siblings who need money and make demand around some of their own needs.”

The distance Philisa had to travel from home to school via taxi and train made it hard for her. At home she didn’t have a laptop or phone to work on my studies, or a space to study, and the environment wasn’t exactly ideal for studying.  She would have to wake up early to get to campus to get all her work done, and get home safely.

“Gangsterism is all around where I live, and therefore it is wise to go home early, even though I do not always have a chance to complete my assignment on time.

Philisa was selected by the University and received an email from Financial Aid saying that she was awarded a bursary. I had R50 000 in student debt. Access to Success helped me, offering R15 000 to reduce my debt.

“I thank the donors for their assistance,” she says. “This has motivated me to focus on my studies more than I did before.”


Philisa plans to continue her studies next year by enrolling for Honours in the Institute for Social Development -  a Research Institute with a long-standing and successful postgraduate programme in Development Studies.

“If I don’t qualify I want to do an internship or start working in the language communication studies field, media or journalism - something that has to do with communication.

And after that?

“I want to get a job that will satisfy my needs - and I want to travel the world, conducting research. In 10 years I see myself as someone successful and a motivator or a role model to many. I dream to help or assist other kids who never get a chance to have access to education.

Philisa has joined a community non-profit organisation that assists high school students with moving into university or other tertiary education programmes.

Philisa wants to acknowledge the role models in her life - especially her mother.

“She made me believe in myself and keeps on encouraging me to always fear to be average and to strive for the best in each and every opportunity I encounter,” she says. “She is not highly educated, but she always tells me to put education first - and she is the reason all of her children are studying now.”

Access To Success 2017: Helping Others Grow From Hope To Action

The Access To Success 2017 campaign includes:

•    a public media fundraising campaign;?

•    an alumni phonathon where current students gather testimonies from alumni and request regular, affordable

      annual donations; and?

•    a pledge system to allow UWC staff to contribute.?

Last year the campaign exceeded all expectations, having raised over R1,6 million in pledges in three weeks - the target was R1million in five weeks - and having also brought on board 557 new alumni and staff givers.

So far, 93 students have benefited from Access To Success - and students can apply for funding through UWC’s Financial Aid Office.

To make a contribution, whether a monthly debit order or once-off donation,  or for more information about the #AccessToSuccess campaign, please contact Ms Somayah Barnes at or visit