Mature graduate wants to be an agent of change

After eight years of dedication that saw him juggling studies with a full-time job and family commitments, Johannesburg resident Tinyiko Lucky Maluleke (42) is set to make the career move from security guard to qualified social worker.

It took the Rand Aid Association employee eight years to achieve his Bachelor of Social Work degree through Unisa. Although the novel coronavirus lockdown prevented his graduation ceremony from going ahead as planned, his colleagues celebrated his success through emails of congratulations.

His degree did not come easily. Lucky – as he is fondly known – enrolled for the course in 2010 but did not finish as quickly as planned because of a host of challenges. In his first year, he discovered that he had taken incorrect modules. “This has taught me that I have to do massive research before I engage in any project,” he says.

Family problems forced him to take a gap year in 2012. In 2016, he was dropped at the last minute by the organisation that had agreed to place him for his practical work, and as a full-time security guard, he was constantly under pressure to complete his practical modules on time. “The theory aspects of my studies presented far fewer challenges,” he says.

“In 2018, I managed to complete at least two practical modules and deregistered one due to time constraints. In 2019, I succeeded in completing the remaining practical module. I had to pay the full amount for any deregistered modules which added to my financial burdens,” he says.

Balancing work, family and studies took much manoeuvring. “Fresh from night shift, I would have to either attend Unisa supervision sessions, report for my practical work at the placement organisation or attend Unisa workshops.

“These activities needed thorough preparation before attendance. I never had enough time to do that because I had to work through the night. Often, I went without sleep. I also did not see as much of my family as I would have liked to. Consequently, I have learned that time is a scarce and very precious commodity and I have to use it wisely.”  

Lucky joined Rand Aid’s security team in August 2007. “Rand Aid has been extremely supportive. They intervened in 2013 when I battled to pay my tuition. They assisted me financially until 2016 and also arranged for me to work night shift only and to get three consecutive days off to accommodate my studies.”

When the coronavirus restrictions are eased, Lucky will register with the South African Council for Social Services Professions and will begin looking for his dream job.

For now, he is playing an essential role at Rand Aid in helping to keep the residents of the NPO’s retirement villages and care centres safe in the face of the global pandemic.

Social work interested Lucky from a young age. “Domestic abuse was common in my family. This motivated me to pursue a career in which I could assist and empower people to help themselves and change their circumstances.

Lucky says that growing up, he had no particular role models – his determination came from within. “From high school level, I was consumed with the desire to obtain an academic degree. I would have loved to have been a medical doctor, pharmacist or a health inspector, and took the necessary science subjects at high school, but because of poverty and a lack of support, I could not make it.

“When I observed that many people, including myself, were suffering from social problems with the potential to cripple their lives, I was motivated to do social work. I want to help people deal with the social ills that prevent them from reaching their potential.”

Lucky says his faith saw him through many trying times. He says he is sincerely thankful to Rand Aid Association for its support and for paying part of his university fees. “Special thanks go to Ayanda Matthews, the GM of the Compliance and Social React Division, and to Adèl Grobbelaar, the manager of Wedge Gardens treatment centre, for unearthing my skills and exposing me to the company for study support recognition.

“If it is God’s will, I will complete a postgraduate qualification next.”

The father of three grew up in a village called Xisasi (Merwe B) Malamulele in Limpopo and today lives in Lorentzville, on the eastern edge of the Johannesburg CBD.

Ayanda, who has played a mentoring role in Lucky’s life over the past years, says his hard work has paid off. “May this be the beginning of greater things to come,” she says.

Determination pays off for social worker graduate Lucky Maluleke.

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