Despite the threat of the coronavirus and its rapid and pervasive disruption to our daily lives, Sello Thamsanqa Mpho Ngwaxaxa, has set his sights on acquiring more knowledge and skills to ensure a better future for himself, his family and community.

Whilst many young people are tempted to throw in the towel as the nation struggles to cope with economic challenges and lockdown isolation Thamsanqa is determined to make the best of a scholarship he has landed with the New York University’s (NYU) globally renowned Tisch School of the Arts to study Film and Television with the best the world has to offer. 

“The university offers a dual-degree opportunity in which I may obtain a second degree namely a Bachelor Science of Business in relation to Film and Television. The best part about this is that both degrees can be earned within 4 to 5 years of studies at NYU,” says Thamsanqa, the owner of Ngwaxaxa Studios, a pioneering black arts company committed to unearthing talent among young people and magnify their voices in society.

His goal is to acquire the international skills required to grow the arts and positively contribute to economy of South Africa.

But the challenge for this 19-year-old, who graduated cum laude from the National School of the Arts (Gauteng), is that whilst he has secured the scholarship to this prestigious institution, it does not cover health insurance, stationery and supplies, residency, living expenses, transportation.

Help Thamsanqa fulfil dream to study the arts in New York University. Picture: Supplied

A letter from the New York University signed by Jonathan B. Williams, Assistant Vice President, Undergraduate Admissions, confirms the admission of Thamsanqa as a fulltime undergraduate student.

Williams says Thamsanqa starts in September, 2020 and anticipates to graduate in May 2024.

The overall cost of tuition is $84,224 (R1,5 million) per year. The scholarship that Thamsanqa has received is worth $24, 100 (R442, 788) per year. He needs to raise R1,1 million to cover the expenses that are not covered in the scholarship. 

Adding to the burden is that Thamsanqa lost his caring mother in 2008, when he was at the tender age of seven. He now faces an uphill struggle to provide for his siblings and to pursue his academic dreams.

Thamsanqa is seeking assistance with funds from the public and philanthropist to cover his expenses which are excluded from the scholarship, so that he could fulfil his ambition to chart a path that other young people across South Africa can follow.

“I am young, I will admit that. Which makes it rather difficult to merit my funding request. But I don’t have anyone else to turn to. My mother passed away when I was seven years old and the little that she did leave behind has helped me get this far. My father neither plays an active nor positive role in my life,” says Thamsanqa.

“I am aware that my circumstances are similar to those of millions of young people across the country, and that I cannot sit on my laurels. The world owes me nothing and I have to work hard to seize the opportunities in life. However, I am a child of the state with my older sister as my foster parent who herself is unemployed. The principle lies then: that in this seemingly hopeless and harsh reality, an unprecedented opportunity has risen. A chance to change my reality.” 

He dreams for Ngwaxaxa Studios to be as big as Disney Pictures, based in South Africa. 

“As a creative Ngwaxaxa Studios will be a gateway to the stories of our people, our triumphs and our failures. It will be a portal to worlds beyond the ones we know. My focus is on the youth of South Africa and inspiring them to love their homeland and their roots,” Thamsanqa says.

He counts Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba and Dr John Kani among many South African icons who are his role models.