The Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds - Oxbridge Academy

The Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds

certificates&medals The Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds is an award for students who have succeeded in their studies despite any physical, educational, social, or financial obstacles that they have faced. The Medal is awarded to three students each semester, and is accompanied by a Special Merit Award that covers 30% of the course fees of the recipients’ next course at Oxbridge Academy. The aim of this award is not only to recognise students for their excellent academic achievements despite their difficult circumstances, but also to motivate, inspire, and encourage other students facing similar struggles. Through this award, we also hope to make it possible for some of our students to further their studies in situations where they may not otherwise have been able to do so.  

Succeeding Against the Odds – November 2016

The recipients of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds in July 2016 are:

Lizette Steenkamp


Lizette grew up in an abusive home, with an alcoholic father who took her out of school when she was in Grade 9. After she was taken out of school, she tried to teach herself using her friends’ textbooks, but she couldn’t write the exams and therefore couldn’t get her certificates.

Lizette is now studying a bridging course at Oxbridge Academy, but she has not had an easy journey. She says:

In 2007 I met a wonderful man, got married and had 2 beautiful children. In 2013 we were attacked in our home, my husband was shot and killed in front of me and my two children, and I was 3 months pregnant with my third child. She was born 5 months later, 6 weeks prematurely. I was alone and had no family or support. I was a full-time working, single mother of 3.

I struggled on my own for two years with no help.

Last year, 08/02/2015, I met a man at a church camp, we got married this year, he also has 3 kids.

We both work full time. Life is so difficult with 6 kids to support, schooling and everything is so expensive. And I’m sure you can imagine that with Grade 8 as your highest level of education, the salary that I work for is anything but good.

A few months ago I decided that I need to start doing something, I need to try make something of myself for the sake of my kids, so I joined Oxbridge Academy, I don’t have much time for myself and only have the opportunity to do my assignments at night after 8PM when my kids go to sleep.

I believe that I have succeeded against all odds, I have been through a lot of trauma, pain and suffering in my life, but I have always been determined and a real fighter, I WILL NOT let anything get me down! Even though I don’t have a decent education, or much time on my hands, I always go out of my way to learn and make a success of anything.

Lizette has shown great courage, along with determination to succeed despite the challenges life has thrown at her. Not only is she doing well in her course, but she is clearly also committed to working hard towards a better future for herself and her family. We are therefore happy to name her as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.


Dillion Banda

Dillion Banda, a Security Management student at Oxbridge Academy, initially came to South Africa to escape the civil unrest in his home country, Zimbabwe. It was a treacherous journey.

When he arrived here, he started working as a security guard. He says:

The job of a Security Guard was a take it or leave it option. I took my Zimbabwean Diploma and degree and flushed them down the drain. I had no story to write home about.

In 2012, the dark cloud over me became more darker and gloomier, my financial situation began to drown me. It was that time when a Good Samaritan passed by pointing into the dark cloud for me to notice the silver lining. Behold on that lining sat proudly the Oxbridge Academy. My bridge to redemption and salvation.

It came with a dear price. I had to raise an initial registration fee. I sold my inherited flute that was passed on to me by my father when he passed on. May his soul rest in peace. It was like a burning knife was being shoved into my liver. I had thrown my bread into the river.

This was only the start of Dillion’s struggles. His wife lost her job, which meant that they lost their home, and they had to move into a shack. Dillion then took up extra work to help pay for his studies. He describes the situation as follows:

I found extra work to wash cars at the traffic lights to supplement my monthly course instalments. Every day at five o’ clock I woke up to study my tutorials, cockroaches and rats raced on the pages of tutorials, leaving them caked with brown and black stains. The highlighters of doom. The leaking roof was a nightmare. The shebeen next door was ever open with blurring and volcanic thundering music speakers and cheering, laughing, belching and whimpering voices of women and men. The smoke of cigarettes and ganja (marijuana) freely wafted and trickled into the cracks of my shack. The intoxicating smell of urine, human waste, vomit and rotten water played on my nose. My head twisted while I strained my eyes following the written lines in the dim candle light.

Further tragedy then struck his family – their shack burned to the ground, and they lost everything. Despite all of this hardship, however, Dillion persevered with his studies, until he completed his course and secured a better job:

One day I was found reading my last tutorial at work by my supervisor, overdue fatigue had overtaken me, and I was sleeping deeply with saliva drooling at the corner of my mouth, flooding my tutorial page. I escaped that ordeal through the eye of a needle with a verbal warning.

I finished my course in 2013, with full moon distinctions … in Security Management, laced and iced with a Cum Laude Commendation Award.

Today I am a Security Manager with a hefty gross salary of R10 000.00. I have enrolled again with Oxbridge Academy to embark on the Hotel and Catering Management course to augment my prospects in the Hotel Industry.

In the face of trying circumstances and numerous obstacles, Dillion has shown great commitment and determination. And in spite of all the hardships he faced, he managed to achieve excellent results in his studies. We are therefore proud to name him as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.


Mokitsi Kekana

Mokitsi is a single mother and full-time employee. Aside from being financially responsible for her own immediate family, she is also financially responsible for her brother (who was forced to take early retirement due to a respiratory illness) and her niece (who was involved in a car accident). She says:

Back home in Limpopo I have to financially & emotionally support them [her brother, niece, and daughter]. At work I still have to be productive & perform. I have an 8-year-old that I have to fend for on my own. Daily homework supervisions, house chores, school meetings, Dr’s visits as she has severe chronic allergic rhinitis, shopping, sporting activities and so forth. I work long hours & it takes me 2 hours to and from work every day. Sometimes traffic is extremely bad. I use public transport .My bills include bond, insurance, food, school fees, study fees, data bundles, clothing, electricity, rates & taxes, transport for myself, & I take care of 3 households. It’s difficult. At the end I still have to study & write assignments. Most of the time I’m emotionally & physically tired. I have to pull myself together. Distance learning makes it all possible.

Despite her challenging circumstances, Mokitsi has shown great commitment to her studies. For this reason, we are proud to name her as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.

Succeeding Against the Odds – July 2016

The recipients of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds in July 2016 are:

Tsebiso Nkaki


In 2014, Tsebiso (a third-year geology student) and his sister had to drop out of university, as their father was retrenched. With only a Matric certificate and an incomplete university academic record in hand, Tsebiso then tried to find employment at the mines, but all in vain. His situation became even more difficult when his girlfriend later fell pregnant, and he was still unemployed.

To make matters worse, his father fell ill and was hospitalised for three months. Due to his father’s illness, his mother was forced to quit her job as a domestic worker. Tsebiso said:

My mom had to quit her job because of my father’s conditions which were worsening each and every day. One day, as sick as [my father] was, he took my hand and told me that winners are those who persist, those who never give up no matter how hard it can be. Though it wasn’t as easy as it sounded, I stood up and started a small family business called Nkaki Family Corporation; it specializes with cleaning products and community services. So far I’ve hired three people and hope to increase the number by the end of this year.

With his own business, Tsebiso hopes not only to employ more people, but also to provide bursaries, and to “encourage young people who are struggling with jobs to never stop dreaming but rather work hard and be creative.”

Tsebiso says that even though he did not expect to return to his studies, Oxbridge Academy has made it easy for him through affordable fees and clear, relevant study material.

Tsebiso has shown great entrepreneurial spirit, determination, and the will to succeed despite being faced with many obstacles. For this reason, we are proud to name him as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.


Nadia van Heerden


Nadia registered with Oxbridge Academy because she believes that education is the key to success. For the past five years, she has been working as a Beauty Advisor in the retail industry, and she says that “there’s a lot of challenges in the beauty industry and there is always a new beauty trend coming out every year. Before I started to register as a student, I had a lack of self-confidence in myself all the time, because according to the people I am just a lady who is selling cosmetic products and it’s not like that.”

Aside from the difficulties she has faced in her career, Nadia has also experienced a difficult home life. In her motivational letter, she tells us that she lives with her brother, who has Bipolar Disorder, and who has threatened to take his life on numerous occasions. She also tells us how her mother is drunk almost every weekend, and shouts ugly words at her.

Despite the circumstances at home, Nadia believes that if you work hard, something good can come out of any situation, and that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. So far, she has managed to achieve high marks in all her assignments, and she lives by the motto ‘if you dream it, you can achieve it’. To other students, she says:

“Remember that no one can take away what you have worked hard for. No one can take away your education.”

Even in trying circumstances, Nadia has shown strength of character, maintained a positive attitude, and achieved success in her studies. For this reason, we are happy to name Nadia as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.


Riziki Mushamuka


Riziki, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, struggled to pay for her studies while looking after her two children, a daughter who is seven and a son who is three. Her situation was made complicated by the fact that she is not a South African citizen. She says, “My life has never been easy at all, starting from the fact that I am not a South African citizen and have to find myself in an English speaking country with a passionate desire of taking my education further in order to give my two kids a better life.”

When she called to register at Oxbridge Academy, she wanted to study an international qualification, but was advised against doing so, as she is from a French-speaking country, and her English is poor. However, she insisted on registering for an international qualification, and she was determined to succeed despite the language barrier.

During her studies, her husband lost his job, and she became the sole breadwinner in their family. As a result, she became depressed and developed high blood pressure. But instead of letting her situation get to her, she persevered until she completed her international diploma.

Riziki has shown willingness to work hard, commitment to her studies, and determination to succeed despite the various obstacles in her way. For this reason, we are pleased to name Riziki as a recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.


Succeeding Against the Odds – November 2015

The recipients of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds in November 2015 are:

Lizette Janse van Rensburg

Succeeding Against the Odds, Oxbridge AcademyLizette Janse van Rensburg, from Mpumalanga, has been working for one of the biggest energy companies in South Africa for the past eight years. In 2011, doctors found a tumour in her pituitary gland. This was not the only health problem she was confronted with, however:

“As if that was not enough I was diagnosed with Epilepsy called Complex Partial Seizures… At that stage of my career I was having about 10 seizures a day which made it impossible for me to hand in my assignments on time. But that did not stop me from succeeding. I talked to the Assessor and they decided to give me longer time to complete my assignments. I always asked myself ‘why me what did I do wrong to deserve this’. But then I lift my head and go on again. I now accept my sickness and I am confident that I will and can succeed in anything I take on.”

It is particularly the flexibility that comes with distance learning that helped Lizette continue her studies despite her severe health problems.

She found out about Oxbridge Academy when her daughter wanted to study:

“I was browsing the net and came across Oxbridge Academy and I thought to myself ‘I also want to study again’ and at the beginning of the year I entered. I know I can succeed although it takes me longer to complete my assignments, but thanks to Oxbridge I can do my assignments on my own time. With God everything is possible and the assessors are kind enough to help me in every possible way.”

Living with an illness presents both a physical and a psychological obstacle. To remain optimistic and to take control over your life in these circumstances is an immense achievement, worthy of an award.


Mathe Salome

Succeeding Against the Odds, Oxbridge Academy

26-year-old Mathe Salome and her husband were both working as contract employees in rural Limpopo. When their contracts were terminated one after the other in 2010, they had nowhere to turn:

“The termination of his contract became a very stressful event to the family since he was promised that his contract was to be renewed but that didn’t come to pass. As the situation stood, we were no longer able to meet the basic necessities within our household. However, I didn’t allow such a situation to disgrace and intimidate me and my family. From the little money that was previously saved, I opened a small business … selling ice-creams, sweets, snacks, vetkoek and so forth from my house. The business was able to sustain the family even though the standard of living was never the same as before.”

Mathe’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited. The spaza shop grew, and she and her husband bought two computers to open up their own internet café. With the profit from that little business, they eventually opened up a decorating business, too. It was at that point that she enrolled for her course at Oxbridge Academy:

“I then came to realise that I am passionate about businesses hence I have registered [with] Oxbridge Academy to acquire proper and formal skills to formalise my businesses and to ensure convenience and satisfying services to my customers.Even though I would earn a living from the businesses, things have never been easy for me. Serving as a wife, a mother, a businesswoman and a student at the same time is exhausting. However, I ensure that I secure and invest sufficient time for each task and responsibility with the hope that someday I will obtain all the necessary qualifications to grow my businesses, register as a company and employ people who will assist me successfully run and manage my businesses.” Mathe’s confidence and resilience exemplifies the ‘Succeeding Against the Odds’ award. She not only refused to let adversity get her down, but she succeeded in spite of it.


Emile Smith

Succeeding Against the Odds, Oxbridge Academy

At age 11, Emile was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a muscle disease that severely hampers movement and mobility. This disability became an immense obstacle when he wanted to pursue his studies:

“After I finished school it was very difficult to get into varsities due to my muscle problem because it limits me in many ways, like for example I can’t use public transport… I couldn’t get work either. It was a sad phase of my life.”

The comfort of distance learning, which allowed him to study from home, eventually enabled Emile to further his education:

“Then I found Oxbridge Academy. Wow! It changed my life. I can finally strive toward a better future. It suits my disability and everything is comfortable! I’m not financially stable but Oxbridge is so beautiful I can use my disability grant to pay my fees. I did very well in my first module already. Things are just getting greater for me. Winning this medal would inspire me more not to give up. To look past my present circumstances and reach for the stars”


Succeeding Against the Odds — July 2015

The first recipients of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds were selected in July 2015. They are:

Asheena Singh

Asheena Singh w-AsheenaAsheena Singh, a secretarial student and working mother from KwaZulu-Natal, has been working as an administrative clerk in the automotive industry for the past 10 years. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a serious lung disease:

“This sad news hit me rock bottom as I felt I was still so young. Being diagnosed with this illness I focused solely on my suffering. The anxiety and depression on a daily basis was too much for me to handle. I felt I needed to do something with my life to be a strong willed woman.”

One day as I sat at my desk, I browsed through my Jet club book and came across Oxbridge Academy courses. At that very moment I felt something so right about choosing my course and break away from depression and focus on something good that will benefit me one day. I’m glad to say I have finished 3 modules, and feel awesome about my results thus far. I am a confident woman and have accepted my sickness at the same time.”

Asheena is an inspiration to us all, as she showed us that no matter how dire the situation is, it is still possible to pick yourself up and to succeed at whatever it is that you have put your mind to. At the time of receiving her award for succeeding against the odds, Asheena had already passed 2 modules of her Executive Secretary (PA) course.

Londiwe Sithembile Kelly Dlamini

Londiwe Sithembile Kelly Dlamini w-LondiweLondiwe’s father passed away when she was only five years old. She was raised in difficult financial circumstances by her unemployed mother, but still found a way to rise above her circumstances, and to do something positive with her life:

“I have been able to pay my school fees by doing peace jobs wash, cleaning and ironing around my area Vosloorus. Sometimes I will not have food in the house because the money is too little I need to pay my school fees. I also sell perfume from different products at my church. I also help with cleaning the church on voluntary basis at High Praise Centre every weekend and also help the vulnerable children cook for them and hand parcel to their families every Thursday when not occupied.”

Londiwe started studying Occupational Health and Safety at Oxbridge Academy in May 2014, and will be finishing her course this year. So far, she has earned a distinction in one of her modules, making her a deserving recipient of the Special Merit Award for achieving academic excellence and succeeding against the odds.

Tlhanola Nyamane

Tlhanola Nyamane w-TlhanolaTlhanola, an Oxbridge Academy Student from Virginia in the Free State, was left with sole responsibility for his three younger siblings when his mother tragically passed away in 2011. While he was mainly responsible for putting food on the table, he also took it upon himself to make sure that his siblings could get the education that they deserved:

“All task of attending parents school meetings were due to be my responsibility, and the need for both my brother and sister’s performance in school to remain high was depending on me to always make a huge call so that homework, assignments, projects, the practice of mathematics for my little brother and reading the English sounds, all could be done and be prepared in time.”

At some point I had to find a casual job so that my course fees could be paid in time and some of the fees to be upfront. And I got a job at a taxi and that made the paying of the fees to be possible, paying some of the bills at home like buying bread, milk, and R50 electricity were at least made to be achievable.

Despite all his responsibilities toward his siblings, Tlhanola still managed to complete two full courses via distance learning — and he even succeeded in completing his 12-month Safety Management Course in under 8 months. Tlhanola’s commitment to education, along with his outstanding academic achievement, makes it clear that he is a deserving recipient of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.

How can students be considered for this award?

If you are an Oxbridge Academy student, and would like to be considered for this award, please keep an eye on your e-mail for the application information. Alternatively, if you know someone who you think is a deserving recipient of this award, please send your motivation to (Please remember to include your own contact details, as well as the name, surname, student number and contact details of the student you wish to nominate). The closing date for the next award is 30 November 2016.