Stellenbosch University
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It takes a village to raise a child.
Author: Dr Janina Theron
Published: 18/06/2020

​​It takes a village to raise a child. Throughout his life, Elvin Hendricks filled his own village with inhabitants. Together with his own hard work, Elvin credits this group of people to the success that he has achieved. First of all, Elvin is his grandmother's child and the youngest of her grandchildren. He grew up in her house with his brothers, nieces and nephews. However, when this pillar passed away at the beginning of his high school career, things at home took a turn for the worse. He moved from Stellenbosch to his sister in Gugulethu in Grade 9 where he enrolled in Heideveld High School. After things did not work out in Gugulethu, Elvin moved back to Cloetesville where he had to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the train to school. This new routine, coupled with the conditions he faced at home, started taking its toll.

Mrs Witbooi, one of his teachers, noticed that something was holding him back and that this student had potential. The school started helping with support and some pocket money. The Witbooi family accepted him as one of their own; he spent weekends there and enjoyed Sunday family lunches with them. This was not the only family that opened their door for Elvin. In grade 12, he stayed with the family of one of his classmates. Here he went to help Auntie Wilhelmina, the matriarch of the family, where she worked at the Stellenbosch United Church.

At this church, he was introduced to Pastor David, who also took Elvin under his wing. They had weekly chats about his future and because of this, Pastor David and the church gave Elvin his first nudge towards the University; soon after, he met with Professor Charl Cilliers, the director of the Centre for Student Counselling and Development at the time. He received valuable psychological support at the CSCD and when his application to study at Stellenbosch University was rejected, it was Prof Cilliers who proposed that he apply to the SciMathUS programme.

During his SciMathUS year in 2012, he received just as much support from the staff and facilitators. It was the little things, the people who were interested in how his day was going; these small things are what motivated Elvin. During his studies at the Education Faculty, the Stellenbosch United Church Fund provided him with financial support in addition to his Funza Lushaka bursary. In addition to this financial support, the church also appointed Elvin a mentor, Ulrike Reuter. They met every two weeks and Elvin speaks with compassion about how much she meant to him. Ulrike not only offered him academic support, but went out of her way to help him with his mental well-being. When Elvin travelled to Berlin for an academic short course, Ulrike was the one who assisted him in obtaining a passport.

Today, Elvin teaches at Uniondale High School and is known to the locals of two towns as Mr Legend. His passion lies not only with the subject he teaches, but especially the children he works with. Learners and parents are grateful for the extra mile that Elvin goes for his students. He even challenged learners on Whatsapp during the school holidays in lockdown with daily mathematical problems.

The golden thread that clearly shone through during my chats with Elvin – and there were many stories that unfortunately didn't make it into this article (Elvin, for example was appointed as Lobelia's Primarius after interviewing for the treasurer position) – is his humble gratitude towards the individuals who helped him to get where he is today. He not only mentions authority figures like pastors and professors, but also gives thanks to Auntie Hendrikse at Accommodation as well as Auntie Williams and Auntie Niemand at the Bursaries and Loans office. Elvin is a remarkable individual with a great village of people backing him.