Facing the Challenges

“Growing up in a house with five older siblings from a previous marriage, who didn’t want me or my sister around, was extremely difficult and painful,” recalls Vusumzi, or Vusi as he is affectionately known. To this day he still remembers the feelings of rejection and conflict as family meetings were called to discuss the situation. Plans were devised to keep him and his younger sister from being bullied by the stepbrothers and -sisters. These troubled times left an emotional scar, but he believes it also made him stronger and more resilient. Attending Desmond Tutu high school in Mbekweni township in Paarl, he focused on accounting, maths and being an all round first team cricket star for his school.

A good trust relationship with his cricket coach and accounting teacher, Mr Adams, led to him considering IT as a possible career.

“Although our school had a computer centre, the door was always locked, and no computer literacy classes were offered. Of course, this only made computers more intriguing and I decided to enrol for a three-year programming course at Oval College in Cape Town.” He went there in person, asked for the application form and asked about career opportunities once he completed the course. He was determined to be accepted and complete this course.

We Shall Overcome

“The first year was tough seeing that I had to learn everything from scratch and I didn’t even know how to switch on the computer!” He was sometimes ridiculed by fellow students, but luckily, he kept his sense of humour. His determination to make a success out of his studies and subsequent career in IT only grew.

“After our first year of basics, we were finally on the same level when my fellow students also had to learn how to code. The playing fields were now even.” But Vusi had two things in his favour. He was extremely passionate about coding, and he had three hours on the train between Paarl and Cape Town everyday to devour books about coding that he took out from the library on the way to the station.

Not having a computer at home, he made a plan and spent time at his cousin’s house to do his assignments. He eventually begged his mother to buy him a basic, bottom of the range computer to complete his studies.

His lecturers noticed that he went the extra mile to learn alternative methods and read up about the subjects and programs. Vusi soon became one of the top programmers in his class, earning him the title of Mr Programmer.

At the End of the Day

While building up an impressive CV, Vusi’s goal is to have his own company in the near future where he can employ and hopefully mentor other youngsters with aspirations of becoming computer programmers. “Nowadays it is a little easier. I would advise learners to go the library or dedicated youth service centres like Thusong (www.thusong.gov.za) where they can use PC’s for free and get some useful career guidance. Do research first and make sure your marks at school are good enough. Unfortunately, there’s no easy road to anything worthwhile. But,” he says with a big smile, “for those willing to put in the time and effort, the sky is the limit.”