From Umlazi to Harvard, Mfundo’s incredible journey

Mfundo Radebe at his old school, Crawford College.

MFUNDO means education and for 20 year old Mfundo Radebe who is a student at Harvard University, education is the best tool that can change all the social ills facing his community of Umlazi.

“I truly do believe that we have so much untapped potential as a country, but without equipping our young people with the necessary skills to be able to use that potential effectively, then we will go nowhere. To be able to carry that in my name is so special to me,” he said.

Radebe who has now founded the Dlulisa Initiative, an organization that supplies foundation level education resources and works with a network of volunteers, private schools and companies to implement academic interventions and selection of high potential learners for scholarships, says his journey from Umlazi to Harvard was not easy.


Mfundo Radebe at his old school, Crawford College.


“It was an insane journey that I am quite proud of. It started when I was thirteen and I wrote to ask for assistance from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to go to high school. I was given support to go to Northwood School in Durban North. And while there, I felt a need to move to another great school— Crawford College. So, in Grade 9 I wrote several times to the principal and board of the company that owns the school. I eventually would be given their first ever full scholarship! While at Crawford, I realized just how much work there was to be done in South Africa. That conviction saw me become national debate champion, an international speaking champion, and ultimately realizing that the sky was not the limit and that I too belonged on the global stage. I applied to Harvard in late 2015 and in December I got the notice that I had been selected to attend the school on full scholarship,” he said.

When asked what he misses the most about South Africa, Radebe said “no access to pap! Kidding (or maybe not) but most challenges I have faced are with regard to feeling disconnected from South Africa. It makes me feel guilty at times but then I remember that I am equipping myself to come back.”

As a parting shot, Radebe said don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. “You are more powerful than you think. And don’t play it small— the world demands that you stand up for issues of social justice, equality, fairness, democracy, etc. Reach out to those in-the-know who can assist you with your goals.”


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Rudy Nkgadima

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