It was the support structures at their residence, as well as the support of lecturers at Stellenbosch University (SU) that enabled two Maties to get through their first year after life-changing trauma.
On Friday (17 March), both these two SU students and friends, Hlumelo Nonxuba from the Eastern Cape and AJ (Abraham Johannes) du Plooy from Namibia, received their BCom degrees from SU. Both stay in Simonsberg residence and both lost a parent in their first year.
Shortly after his first year started in 2013, Hlumelo's mom died of cancer in April of that year. Naturally it was a difficult start to his student years, but he says he had good support within the residence and from lecturers.
"I had just settled in at Stellenbosch when my mom died, and it was difficult. As a student I also had lots to do in that time. But luckily I had great support from the residence," says Hlumelo (22), who is currently the Primarius of Simonsberg.
He says he received much support from the residence's house committee, his friends and the church that he belongs to in Stellenbosch.
"My mother's death was traumatic, but to know that I am not alone, gave me hope and urged me to keep on studying and to not just give up. I also wanted to prove myself," says Hlumelo.
AJ's father died of a heart attack at the end of 2014. "It was during my exams. I had to fly to Namibia for the funeral, and I wrote the 'second opportunity' exam. It created a lot of stress for me," says AJ, who is a mentor at Simonsberg.
According to him the great support in the residence structures and the fact that his lecturers understood his situation, gave him strength to pursue his dreams.
"My father was also in Simonsberg, and in a way it helped me to keep going forward and prove to my father that I can persevere," says AJ.
His advice to students who suffer trauma is to realise that it is not the end of the world. "It is actually only a stumbling block that you can overcome. You learn to live with it and over time it only gets better."
Hlumelo's advice is to talk about your trauma. "Talk to the residence head, to friends and members of your church," he says.
PHOTO: AJ du Plooy, Dr Leslie van Rooi (Simonsberg's residence head) and Hlumelo Nonxuba.