Since his earliest memories of his childhood with his paternal family, Dr Mxolisi Njabulo Xulu’s life has not been easy. The 24-year-old is a medical intern at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, in Mthatha.
His family are from Ceza, in KwaZulu-Natal and relocated to Hluhluwe in Northern KZN when he was still young. He started school in this small town in 2005.
Given his obvious intelligence, he was fast-tracked to second grade in the same academic year.
Traumatic early life experiences
Xulu is the son of the late Tholakele Rebecca Khoza and the living Eliam Thandukwazi Xulu. According to Xulu, they were not married. He learned about his mother in 2016, and she passed away the following year, in 2017. Despite his mother’s death, he says his life went on.
He explains that nothing changed except that he had more opportunities to get to know her family.
“We as Africans, there are certain rituals carried out once a relative has passed on. I had to be part of it. That is how the relationship with her family was strengthened. Otherwise, life has been normal, I was not affected in any sphere of life.”
He lived with his stepmother and her two kids from grade one to seven. Everything about the situation was terrible, he says.
“That was a whole childhood trauma. I had to be wise, and I was able to leave in December 2010. That’s when I moved to Nongoma.”
He describes his stay in Nongoma as a very normal environment, where he felt alive and enthusiastic.
He explains that he triumphed over the challenge, even though it cost him a part of himself in the process. The hardships he endured shaped him into the person he is now, and he recognises that they will always play a role in his identity.
“I feel like the family without fully functional parents is like a brain with minimal malfunction cardiopulmonary system. As a result, I had to stay with my stepmother; on its own, it was challenging mentally, physically and spiritually.”
‘Born for this’
According to Xulu, his high school years were filled with great and unapologetic greatness. As a result of his participation in various leadership roles and the social difficulties that surrounded the Nongoma villages, he was inspired to establish Amaciko Unity of Art production in 2014, an organisation that was active for two years.
Xulu began his medical education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2016. He says, he is exactly where he is because of the blessing of God and his ancestors.
Most rural students from Nongoma profited from his 2018 non-profit organisation, ‘Black Child’s Dream Matter,’ through its winter school activities.
“In 2019, I went to Zambia to the Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital through the GEMX program to do electives in neonatal-perinatal medicine. South African Global Surgical Society appointed me in 2020 as a KZN Student Representative.”
Abundant options in healthcare
He prefers the academic over the clinical aspects of medicine because of his passion for research. In 2021, Xulu contributed to a project for AFREhealth titled ‘Transforming the Medical/Nursing Education Partnership Initiative into the African Forum for Research and Education in Health.
“I’m interested in infectious diseases. At some point, I would like to be involved in organisations that create policies like WHO, NICD, CDC etc. I have so much interest in advocating for vulnerable groups when it comes to HIV. These groups include children, and rural communities to mention a few.”
He believes that in order to grow you need to assist and uplift others, which is why he worked for a tutoring private company for over two years where he assisted nursing/medical sciences and medical students from UCT, Wits and UKZN.
He is also a postgraduate student from the University of Cape Town enrolling in PG Diploma TB-HIV management.
HIV and TB are worldwide epidemics that we are hoping to fight, he says. And PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is one of his favourite research areas.
“In completion of my degree, I won an award “2021 Bongani Mayosi Medical Student Academic Prize Winner, UKZN”. This award was dedicated to someone who best balances academic achievement, emotional intelligence, good interpersonal skills and social responsiveness.”
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