There are no limits to learning – it’s our path to empowerment

There are no limits to learning – it’s our path to empowerment

Take it from these achievers, knowledge really is power.

Beautiful News - Three lives 3
Beautiful News

We’re born not knowing much except how to cry, eat, and sleep. But as we grow, it’s up to us to expand our horizons. Gaining knowledge is like lighting a fire in our lives. For Athol Williams, Mbali Mahlale, and Kwezi Qika, a commitment to learning has set them each firmly on a path to fulfilment. 

Mbali Mahlale was born without arms. The pupil has taught herself to write with her right foot, and eat with her left. “There’s nothing difficult about school because I like reading and practising Maths,” she says. Learning is her gateway to a world of possibility. Fuelled by an unwavering resilience, Mahlale is determined to become a dentist one day. “Sometimes people think I can’t do much because of the way I look,” she says. “Being born without arms won’t stop me from succeeding.” 

Athol Williams’ life is a testament to success against all odds. Raised in Mitchells Plain, a coloured township, during apartheid meant that Williams was subject to deliberately inferior schooling. “I realised that to beat the system, I would have to take personal responsibility for my life and my own education,” he says. A schoolboy with a voracious appetite for wisdom, Williams absorbed everything he could. Today, he’s the only person to have achieved five Master’s degrees from five of the top universities in the world. To uplift others, Williams co-founded READ to RISE, an organisation that distributes children’s books. “I think it’s very important for us to always remember the power of sharing knowledge,” he says. 

But learning isn’t just confined to the classroom. As a child, all Kwezi Qika wanted to do was surf – yet he couldn’t swim. He stayed on the sand, watching as people shredded waves. When a friend gave him a surfboard and wetsuit, Qika was too embarrassed to admit that he didn’t know how to swim. Qika merely bobbed on his board between the breakers, hoping he wouldn’t get knocked off. Eventually, his desire to carve lines in the water outweighed his lack of knowledge. “I had to learn because I knew if I didn’t, I’m going to drown,” he says. Diving in, he doggedly pursued his liquid education – and went on to become South Africa’s first black longboarding champion.

The resolve to always keep learning propels Mahlale, Williams, and Qika on a trajectory of empowerment. It’s at the end of our limitations that we see our lives coloured by the gift of knowledge. No matter our circumstances, there’s always something to be gained.

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