Mumtaaz “Taz” Emeran, the Wits University medical student who received more than R471,000 in donations from South Africans to help her cover her debt, says she is honoured to be one of the medical doctors who will serve SA during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, Emeran witnessed history when South Africans helped her clear her student debt in 24 hours after she posted a video on Instagram asking for help. She had been informed by the university that she would not graduate unless she settled the debt.
She explained that she had funded her studies for the first three years before a sponsor offered to help her pay her fees. The sponsor allegedly never paid, leaving her hundreds of thousands of rand in arrears.
“I finished my last medical exam yesterday [Monday] and thought I’d be excited, over the moon, but then I got a message from my faculty stating I will not graduate if I have historical debt. If it’s not settled by December 9, my name will be removed from the graduation list. If you know anyone or are able to contribute anything, I’d really appreciate it,” Emeran said at the time.
She will now receive her medical degree and is due to start her internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in January.
In an interview with TimesLIVE, Emeran said it means a lot for her to be given the opportunity to serve the people who made her dream come true.
“How glorious a story it is that through a pandemic, through so many lives having being taken by the pandemic, South Africans birthed a doctor.
“Working on the frontlines in SA during a pandemic will be hectic, I know, but I will serve with gratitude and awe because I’ll be thinking about what better country to serve. What better people to serve.”
Emeran’s viral video was seen by a Standard Bank employee who asked the bank’s top management to help her. She had initially offered her a loan, but had to reach out to Wits University to ask for an extension to process the application.
“After I posted the video someone in the comments asked for my number. She said she works at Standard Bank. She said she saw my video and sent it to the CEO via WhatsApp. She said she might be fired but did not mind being fired for a cause like this.
“The bank called and said: ‘We will go to Wits on your behalf and ask if we can extend the deadline. If we can’t, we’ll ask if we can settle the account before midnight,” she said.
One hour before the deadline last Wednesday evening, South Africans had already raised more than R200,000. Some donated as little as R20. The bank then offered to loan her the balance and send a letter of guarantee to Wits University before midnight.
“I applied for the loan on the evening of December 9, and this was happening, South Africans were still donating. When the loan was approved on Thursday afternoon, South Africans had already cleared the entire thing. What SA did was they gave me R215,000 before the loan and paid off the Standard Bank loan of R250,000. That’s what happened,” said Emeran.
Emeran said she believes South Africans responded because her story was familiar and relatable.
“When the video came out, people said: ‘I can relate. I have felt like that before. I know that feeling.’ It’s not that I’m special,” she said.