Lifelong Student Dr Ashraf Davids is a beacon of the Cape Flats

Mitchells Plain has long been associated with the violence of gangs, but that does not define the township. It is a vibrant, colourful community – filled with talent and hard-working folk. One such person is Dr Ashraf Davids who was told he wouldn’t get very far in life by an educator. 

What is your background? 

I am from Mitchells Plain. I was in grade nine and expressed an interest to apply to a university. A teacher told me to stick to applying to colleges and technikons because that is what “you people do”. These words really stayed with me. So “you people” are certain people. There is nothing wrong with technikons and colleges- but the implication was that I would never get into a university. I wanted to do medicine and only universities offer that. It really shattered my dreams, and felt broken standing with all these applications to send out. But I had enough other teachers, my principal and people around me who were the total opposite and reminded me I am going to make it someday. When some educators come from a more affluent background see impoverished children they tend to stereotype. They have this elitism and have preconceived ideas about what this community is about. I think telling me I won’t get into university came from this sort of mind-set.

What was your university journey like? 

I grew up in a working class household; my mom was a housewife and my dad a bricklayer. I remember going for a vaccination at age four and a sister at the clinic asked what I want to be when I grow up. I told her I want to be a doctor. She told my mom to keep encouraging me. I completed my schooling in Mitchells Plain. I applied to Medical school but got rejected. I then did a BSc to give me a better foundation for further study. I passed with an exemption and got a scholarship to do cardiac research for a year and graduated with a Honours degree that year. I worked for a year in the research laboratory while I applied to med school again. I had a great support system while working. I was encouraged by a cardiology and physiology professor to study medicine. 

They felt I had the research element in the bag but that I was capable of bigger things. For people with degrees applying for medical school there are only about three or four spots available. I went through a rigorous selection process and managed to get into Stellenbosch University to pursue my MBCHB. I didn’t stop there. I applied to do my Masters in Medical Physiology, so I was doing two medical degrees at the same time. My professor told me this has not been done before, and it will need to be approved by the University Senate. They granted me permission but will stop any of the degrees at any time if I don’t cope. In my second year of Medicine I graduated with a masters degree. I qualified in 2009 as a doctor, did an internship in the military and I worked in cape flats townships. All coming full circle to serving the very community I come from for the past eight years. I now run the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital. 

What are your future plans? 

I did another course of study, and earned a diploma in HIV medicine in 2015. I took some time off to spend with my family. I didn’t know my mom was going to get sick. She unfortunately passed away three months ago. So I am glad I finally started taking a breather. I have been studying and working nonstop since the early 90’s. One of the reasons I have never wanted to leave Mitchells Plain was because I wanted to serve my people. I wanted to give back what I learnt and not just leave and never come back. I wanted to impart knowledge and care. There is a need in the townships and we should always be giving back. Leaving has never really been an option for me. There is more to Mitchells Plain and all the townships. We are more than the news we see every day. It is never the end of the road no matter where you come from.