Dr Pamela Phumzile Sithole is a proof that dreams do come true and with hard work, perseverance and determination you can achieve the impossible. Despite working as a domestic worker at the age of 14, she overcame this challenge with patience and tenacity. At 24, she earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Born and raised in Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the youngest of three, to a single mother. Due to her mother’s unemployment and divorce, her siblings had to shoulder the burdens, yet they were always able to support the family. Pamela, however, never let this discourage her. She continued to thrive in school and even participated in and pursued leadership courses at both the high school and university levels.
When she was 14 years old, she assisted a woman who attended the same church as her with some cleaning around the building. This was her first job. She made such an impression on that one time that until the employee who worked there retired, she was continually invited to come back on her school breaks.
She would utilize her earnings to purchase things for herself that she had previously struggled to afford. Even throughout her breaks from medical school, she continued to work there. Her goal of becoming a doctor, which she has had since the age of 15, motivated her to undertake all of this.
Sharing her story said her journey was not easy;
“Growing up there were a lot of challenges, including our financial circumstances and my parents’ divorce.
“My mother was left to provide for us and she was unemployed for the longest time. As a result we had no choice but to rely on my siblings to put me through school from an early age up until high school which put a lot of financial strain on them.”
Despite these challenges, Sithole was determined to live up to her potential and applied herself diligently to her studies.
“For me giving up wasn’t an option.”
When she was a young teenager she got the opportunity to help do chores at a home nearby. This led to regular domestic work during her December holidays and Sithole was able to add to the family’s finances and help fund her high school studies.
Despite doing well in matric there was always the chance that she would not be able to study further because of a lack of funding. “I almost didn’t go to a medical school,” she adds.
Her hard work and commitment to her studies paid off when she received funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. This helping hand was to prove life changing.
“Even though I was a domestic worker, I didn’t shelve my dreams and think that it’s over for me. I continued to work hard and I’m glad that I did.
“For me it really was just a lesson in humility and it has enabled me to better understand people from different walks of life and be able to relate to each person.
“I always knew that good things lay ahead for me and it was truly just a matter of time.”