Thando Mbele-Sibotshiwe


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


South Africa





By Thando Mbele-Sibotshiwe

My shoulders are footstools

Each time I’ve packed my bags to go to Oxford, it’s been somewhat bitter sweet. Sweet because of the excitement and adventure that awaits and bitter because of my family that I leave behind and whom I can’t share this experience with.

I have found some consolation though. What consoles me is that I know for sure that this is not just about me.

Like generations before me that paved the way for me, I too am paving the way for future generations. Not just my children but children who like me come from small towns in third world countries, who have dreams, silent dreams of the world beyond the world they know. Dreams to see it, to know it, to explore it and more importantly to learn from it. If for no other reason but to return and make their world better.

As an African woman I know through my own experience and have come to know through the experience of others, that one of the biggest challenges we face is access, and more importantly access to education. On my continent, as on other continents where third world countries are found, prioritizing the educating of the girl child is still a goal we strive to attain. How close or far we are depends on who you ask, but nevertheless, the challenge remains.

It’s 23:22, I should be asleep, but sleep is far from me. Right now I feel it, more than I have before, the sense of this privilege that I have come to have… the right to chose which school I want to go to, regardless of its location… after all it’s one 10 hour flight away. Yet many girls dream and wonder if after their last exam at the end of this year they will be at school or be at home, even if they do exceptionally well, they are probably lying awake as I write wondering… scared to dream of an Oxford they may have heard of.

So, I write this well aware of what studying this diploma means not to just my family and I, but to a young woman somewhere who dares to dream or say out loud that they want to go to school. It means that if nothing else, this diploma means she to can chose, maybe not today… but one day. When “the lines fall on pleasant places” she just has to reach for it and believe that she can do it and that the door will open. Right now for me, in this moment the much quoted bible scripture that says “to whom much is given, much is required” has never rang so true.

I have the privilege to write this today because I stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before me so that future generations can use my shoulders as foot stools. In this moment all I know is that at least a door has been opened, although slightly, for a young woman to walk through. my prayer is that she sees the rays coming through and she steps up to it and flings it open.


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