By CHRISTINE MWAABA
THE cost of education may be prohibitive, but one young man in Lusaka is determined to do all he can to become a medical doctor.
His name is Reuben Mulenga.
He is a third-year medical student at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Ridgeway Campus.
A typical day for Mulenga starts at 03:00 hours every when he wakes up to start making doughnuts which he sells to raise money for his academic expenses.
Mulenga has reduced himself to selling doughnuts, having refused to let go of his dream of becoming a medical doctor.
This 26-year-old has a loaded and strenuous lifestyle which, unfortunately, he cannot avoid.
Speaking in an interview with the author of this story, Mulenga said he leads a very demanding lifestyle which does not leave him with any time for leisure.
His mission is to ensure that whatever he does, he should raise up to K17,000 to pay for his education, especially the third academic year which is outstanding.
Mulenga uses any free time he can find in his busy lecture schedules to sale doughnuts, raising an average of K100 in a week.
But one wonders when Mulenga will make the required K17,000 at the rates he makes sales?
The student doctor said as a result of his challenging life, some people look down on him on the streets.
But that has not stopped him from working towards achieving his dream.
“Even though people look down on me, I am not embarrassed to be a vendor because that helps me to raise resources for my school fees.
“My dream and desire is to become a medical doctor and save lives,” Mulenga said.
Born in a family of seven in Samfya District in Laupula Province, Mulenga is the fourth born among the children of his parents Ruben Mulenga and his wife Grace.
Mulenga finished Grade 12 at Samfya Secondary School in Luapula Province in 2013.
He had good grades which, unfortunately, put pressure on his father, Reuben and the family which had to raise the required resources for his education.
But the family did not have the capacity to raise what was needed.
Mulenga recalls how he opted to stay at home until such a time when he could enrol at the University of Zambia (UNZA) where he stood a chance of being offered bursary sponsorship.
In 2015, Mulenga’s dream became reality after he applied and was selected in the School of Natural Sciences at UNZA.
At this point, the student doctor knew that his life was opening up.
He was being given the opportunity of making a great achievement.
In keeping his dream alive, Mulenga passed his first year examinations and met the required entry points into Medical School.
That heightened his determination to succeed.
“I become the first in my family to go into tertiary education, making my family proud but at the same time I was worried about where to find money for my academic needs because I knew that my parents had financial constraints,” he said.
Mulenga said his first year in university was exciting, but it had its own challenges because he lacked things like a laptop, a phone and he only had two books to use for his first year in university.
Remarkably, despite the setbacks he faced, the determined medical student went on to pass into his second year.
“At this moment, I knew that I had been given a lifeline because I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to go ahead with my academic life,” he said.
But in the third year, Mulenga failed to reach the threshold of the courses required for him to advance to the fourth year.
He only managed to clear three out of the five courses that he was taking.
He explained that in Medical School, failing one course requires a student to restart the entire academic year once again with bursary withdrawn.
“I had to repeat my whole academic year and my bursary was withdrawn,” he said.
This development dampened his spirit and made him to almost losing hope when he thought of what it would entail to sponsor himself.
“When I told my parents about my situation at school that my bursary had been withdrawn, it had dampened their spirits too and they told me to go back home because they could not afford to pay K17,000 since I was now on self sponsorship.
“When my parents told me to go back home, I looked at were I was coming from; I looked at my dream and told myself that am not a failure – I will find a way to pay for my school fees so that one day I will become a medical doctor,” he said.
This is how Mulenga not set on a path to work hard because that is the only way to regain the bursary by clearing all the five courses and paying the K17,000 for this year.
Faced with this challenge, Mulenga’s mind opened up on how he could redeem himself by finding ways of raising money for his school fees.
“I sat down to think of how I was going to pay my school fees so that I do not have to go back home to my parent’s home. I looked at my background and I told myself that I am going to redeem myself,” he said.
Mulenga started ordering doughnuts to sale so that he can raise money for his school fees.
He explained that after selling for some weeks, he discovered that ordering the doughnuts was costly.
So, he opted to learn how to make them.
“Ordering doughnuts was expensive for me so I decided to learn how to make doughnuts so that it was not costly for me,” he said.
Mulenga turned to the Internet where he watched some videos on YouTube on how to make doughnuts and the ingredients to use and that is how he started making his own doughnuts.
The student doctor makes the dough in the evening and later, wakes up at 03:00 hours to start making the doughnuts before his 08:00 hours class begins.
He said the business of making doughnut has helped him to cover his academic needs.
“If I was doing this business alone, it would have worked for me because it is a good business. The only challenge is that I have school which needs my commitment,” he said.
Mulenga said in a small way, the doughnut business has given him hope that one day, he will achieve his dream of becoming a medical doctor
As the third year medical student contemplates on his future, he also tales time to reflect on the past and has convinced himself that he will not stop trying harder to become better.
But to accomplish such a reverie calls for a benefactor to help the young man secure sponsorship so that he allocates time solely for academic advancement which will make him the life-saving medical doctor he hopes to be one day.