#UPGraduation2021: From shelf packer to physiotherapist: ‘All the hardships made me strong, inside and out’

Posted on May 10, 2021

Meet Tintswalo Maluleke, former store shelf packer and newly qualified physiotherapist, who received his BPhysT degree from the University of Pretoria (UP) during the Autumn 2021 graduation season.

“When I started working at Makro as a packer I told myself that I would save as much money as I could so that I could go back to school,” says Maluleke, who hails from Ga-Ravimang village in Limpopo. “As little as I had earned, I made sure to cover everything. It was not easy; I would work long hours to make more money. I used to tell everyone that I would go back to school and everyone would laugh at me. But nothing stood in the way of my dream of becoming a physiotherapist. As I was packing stock, I would tell myself that this is not my job – I want to be a physiotherapist one day. My dream has become a reality.”

Maluleke recalls that he sometimes attended classes and did clinical work on an empty stomach. “I had no money to buy lunch or even to buy study materials,” he says. “My family, my partner, lecturers and clinicians helped me with food. I am very thankful to each one of them.”

Despite the hurdles, Maluleke notes that his time as a packer prepared him for his studies in many ways. “Mentally, it prepared me to be fearless and not to blame anyone when things didn’t go my way. All the hardships made me strong, inside and out.”

The graduate says he applied to study physiotherapy at three universities and was accepted at two; he then investigated each institution before opting for UP. “UP is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in South Africa, and provides its students with all the support for academic success.” 

He believes the University has prepared him well for the work environment. “From the lecturers who taught us, to the clinical settings where we had to apply the theory taught to us, UP has really prepared each one of us to give our patients the best treatment possible.”

Maluleke’s dreams continue to grow. “Studying further has been in my mind ever since I started doing my community service,” he says. “I want to further my studies at UP and continue to manifest the great work that the University has prepared me for.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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