Naledi Fodo's Success Story

Naledi

STUDENT AT UCT’S MEDICAL SCHOOL

  • Currently Studying

Translated into English, the Sotho name “Naledi” means “Star”, and a true Star she is! This bright girl’s light shines for all to see in an otherwise dark sky.

A Struggle Through Childhood

Born to a family in a rural district of the Eastern Cape which is rife with poverty and lacks basic infrastructure, Naledi’s childhood was difficult. Without much money, the family lived on the small salary of Naledi’s mother who was single. Her father did not want to play a part in this baby girl’s life, and neither financial support nor emotional support was forthcoming. To add to their responsibilities, this family also took care of several cousins who needed a safe place to live, despite the house being so tiny and despite the fact that there was very little nourishing food to go around.

Sadness overtook the family when Naledi’s oldest brother died tragically at the age of 20. He took his own life because he felt desperate; their situation was one of little hope and he felt a failure at school. Two years later, Naledi’s other sibling developed epilepsy. The family was suspicious of Western medicine, and this boy did not receive the medication and care he needed, therefore his condition worsened. With these tragedies came another: Naledi’s mother sank into a deep hole of depression and found the grind of every-day life almost too much to bear. To young Naledi, she clearly needed psychiatric help, but refused to reach out for it because of generations-old beliefs that Western Medicine does not provide cures for her type of condition.

Naledi's Deterimination

Naledi was a healthy child who was determined to study Medicine and one day go back into her community to educate and heal those so obviously in need. Despite the shortage of money, Naledi rose every day, took a taxi to school over dusty farm roads, paid attention in class and worked hard. Every day and in all weather conditions she would walk the 10 kms home from school to save on taxi fare – money was too tight to have the luxury of transport both to and from school.

Her Dream

Teachers at her school were less than encouraging. Rife at this school was absenteeism by the staff, and a general lack of enthusiasm to help the children out of their cycle of poverty, ignorance, and deprivation. When Naledi told teachers about her dream to become a doctor one day they said: “We can’t all be doctors and lawyers. I know it’s nice to dream big but you need to look at where you come from and remember that these things don’t happen to people like us!”

“We can’t all be doctors and lawyers. I know it’s nice to dream big but you need to look at where you come from and remember that these things don’t happen to people like us!”

Naledi did not listen to these stories of doom and gloom. She stuck to her ambition of getting to university and graduating with a degree in Medicine. Scholarships and bursaries have helped her along this pathway. Now with only two more years to go before she graduates, her dreams are on track: With her degree in hand, she intends to go back and work at a local hospital near her place of birth. In her time off, she wants to become a mentor to young girls. Give them guidance and help them find hope too. She wants to educate them about the pitfalls of teenage pregnancy which cuts short a girl’s chance to gain a meaningful education and rise above the hopeless of this poverty-stricken community where the birth rate is frighteningly high making the chance of a good life even harder to grasp.

This young medic-in-the-making is not the highest achiever in her class. But her goals are more noble and her determination stronger than most of her peers. She is a power house of energy and determination. Naledi, our Star, initially wanted to work with children, as a Paediatrician. However, since doing her rotation in Obstetrics, she now believes this will be her specialisation. She will work in her years of internship and community service in the Eastern Cape and then specialise. She feels very strongly that the beginning of life is crucial period for every child and that mothers and their babies need utmost care and a safe, clean environment in which to “bond”. Her idea is to lobby for more sanitary conditions in rural hospitals, facilitate a delivery that is free of complications and to ensure that holistic care is given to women giving birth in public hospitals. She believes that everyone deserves the best possible delivery whether they can afford private care or not. This can be a starting point to help mothers who might be struggling on their own in the worst conditions to raise a baby, as was the case with her own mother.

Enrolled at Africa’s finest university, The University of Cape Town, Naledi works hard, has little time for activities which are not connected with her studies, and no money or time for socialising. But to “de-stress”, she has found a quick activity which costs nothing: she took up jogging. Occasionally she joins friends on hikes in the beautiful Western Cape mountains.

Naledi wrote to Link-SA recently:

“I want to thank you again for the opportunity you have awarded me. It means more to me than just a chance. It means that someone out there believes in me, even when my own belief causes me doubt. Having never had a father to tell me that I was worth it, I have discovered it in other people’s gestures which bring me closer to believing it in myself in my times of self-doubt. The words “thank you” will never be enough!”

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