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MBABANE – A mother of three defied all odds and completed Form 5 at the age of 34 years.

This was after spending over 13 years living in the bushes of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where she gave birth to three children. Lydia Faustine Nakuze eventually escaped and settled in Eswatini.

When she arrived at the refugee camp, she reunited with her father who had arrived years earlier.

Nakuze has just been admitted at the University of Stellenbosch where she will be doing a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering.

Nakuze’s academic journey started at Sebenta National Institute where she did her primary education, having left Rwanda in 1994 while doing Standard Three.   

When she completed Grade Seven she struggled to secure a place in Form I because most schools had a problem with her age, which was 26 years at the time. The then Mbekelweni High School Head teacher Mduduzi Bhembe came to her rescue and admitted her.

She continued to shine both in her Junior Certificate and O-level exams, something that earned her sponsorship and a place at St Mark’s High School where she did her A-levels over two years.

Narrating her bitter-sweet life story, Nakuze said, “I was born in Rwanda on February 26, 1985. I am a  refugee who resides in Eswatini. I am living with my unemployed father who is 72 years old and my three children.”


She said in 1994 during the Rwanda war she fled to seek refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she spent two years in a refugee camp. Unfortunately a further military attack dismantled the camp.

“I then  fled again into the DRC forests to seek refuge in the villages. 

There were no basic infrastructures like schools, hospitals, roads, etc within those villages. During the 13 years that I spent in the DRC forests, those who dismantled the camps used to plan regular attacks  on us, such  that life was unbearable there. It was a war zone. We were moving up and down every time.”

She said their first priority was to survive and due to the insecurities which prevailed at that time, she had to stay with a man while she was still young and it was during that time that she got three children. 

“As a young lady, it was the only way to get protection from the rebels. I did not get an  opportunity to study and I was heartbroken because my dreams to study were shattered and there was no hope at all. 


Finally, in 2011 together with my children we managed to leave that dangerous area for Eswatini where we met my father.

When I arrived here I could not speak or write English and it was very difficult for me to communicate with people.”

In June 2013 she learnt English at Sebenta Institute, which is an adult learning institution.  She then decided to join the group of students who were preparing to write standard five external examinations in 2014. 

“I wrote the exam in 2014 and I passed with flying colours. After receiving my results, I decided to continue with my studies. I applied in most schools but they refused to offer me a place because of my age.” 

She acknowledged the help of journalists from the Times of Eswatini, whom she said continued to publish her story about being rejected by many schools because she ended up getting a place at Mbekelweni High School.

“Since this place was far from my place of residence, I met a good Samaritan who paid my school fees and through people‘s support I was able to travel to school. 


In 2015 at the end of the year when I was in Form I; I got good results which made it possible for me to sit for the junior certificate examination in the following year. 

I also passed with flying colours again despite the fact that I skipped a year and I was enrolled in high school in 2017. I completed high school in 2018 with good results.”

In 2019 she enrolled at St Marks High School to do Cambridge International A-levels hence her provisional admission in the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa).

She is celebrating the fact that despite the many challenges and hardships she has been through with her children, she managed to make it through.

“My first two children got distinctions in primary education and they were granted scholarships at Waterford KaMhlaba where they are currently doing Form IV and II respectively. The other child is also doing very well in Grade Seven at Mbabane Lutheran Primary school.” 


Her word of advice to others is that there is a solution to whatever situation they are facing.

“When I was desperate, I never thought that one day I would be where I am right now. I am free to dream and I believe in myself that I will achieve what I have always dreamt of. The sky is the limit and where there is a will there is always a way; I will never stop until I succeed. Life is a struggle.”

Former Mbekelweni High School Principal Bhembe could not be reached for comment. He was called on his mobile phone from Thursday 10am till Friday noon.  Nakuze had mentioned what a huge impact he had on her life by being the first person to give her a chance academically .

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