"WHILE growing up I had more challenges than victories, but the victories are more sweet."
Those are the words of Andile Mkonto, 22, of the impoverished Soweto-on-Sea, who will be jetting off to the UK next week to study international business administration at London's Hult International Business School.
Mkonto, who co-owns Get Active Construction and Projects, which recently received a tender to build 150 houses in Witbank, was forced to drop out of school at the age of 13.
"I went to Johannesburg to stay with my mother [a domestic worker], but she fell sick. I had to drop out of school so that I could take care of her.
"After raising enough money [after his mother died] to take a train, I came back to Port Elizabeth where I had to repeat Grade 6. I bunked school for the whole term – I just got off track," the eldest of three orphans said.
Then, in about 2004/05, the Ubuntu Education Trust Fund offered him counselling.
"I had some psychological issues. The counseling really helped me, and things have been looking up since then. I am under no illusion that I would be where I am had I not met Ubuntu," Mkonto said.
In 2009, Ubuntu sent him to the African Leadership Academy, where he matriculated.
"I am one of the fortunate ones who had opportunities ... Not everyone from where I am goes to school.
"Without support from my community and my granny, I would not have made it. I am proud of my achievements and where I am from," Mkonto said.
He will be doing a four-year course – two years in London and another two in Shanghai, Dubai, or the US.
"It is scary but I like challenges. I am looking forward to going there, meeting new people, making new friends and making money," he said.
Ubuntu Education Trust Fund co-founder Banks Gwaxula said the programme had produced 14 graduates like Mkonto.
"I am very proud of Andile and the others who graduated through the programme."
Mkonto's advice to others who are in the same situation as he was, is: "Believe in yourself and go out and grab any opportunity that comes your way."