Our Child Care Manager, Ntombenhle Mkhwanazi has a BA (HSSS) in Psychological Counselling. Obtaining her qualification was a journey that lasted 14 years. And every one of those years required commitment, dedication, patience, determination and flexibility.
It all started when one of Ntombenhle’s colleagues who was studying at UNISA asked her to go with her when she went to register.
“When we got there, I saw 50 year old grandmothers on campus,” says Ntombenhle. “I asked my friend what they were doing there and she told me that they were also students. It was so amazing; I could not believe my eyes. I felt encouraged and filled with the possibility that it might not be too late for me to get a university degree.
“But finances were a problem. I am a single parent with three children; how would my salary stretch to cover their needs and mine, as well as university fees? That was the worst, highest mountain to climb. I told myself, ‘God will be with me – I am doing this’.
“I chatted with my manager explaining my challenges. Her advice was to go and speak to our director, Mandy Goble. I was afraid, as I was employed as a child and youth care worker. But I had this belief that Child and Youth Care Centres should have a psychologist on the team. There would be less queuing at the hospital, or waiting months for an appointment.
“So I went to speak to Mandy. After sharing my struggle with her, she told me, ‘Ntombenhle, if you want to study we will support you.’ And, ‘Once you have completed your qualification, we will be the first Child and Youth Care Centre with an in-house Psychologist.’ I never lost sight of those words.
“Mandy told me that a study loan was available. The organisation would loan me the money and I could pay back what I could afford monthly. There was no time limit in terms of repaying the loan. But I was careful about borrowing money from the organisation. Sometimes I would feel like it’s too much, and I would take a gap year while I saved up. I needed to pay back one loan before taking another.
“It was worse when my children started high school. I was totally drained. I would ask for the loan at the beginning of the year, hoping I would be able to cover the rest with my salary, even though I was struggling. I didn’t receive results like the other students at the end of the year; I would get them at the beginning of the following year, after I had paid the outstanding amount, including registration, with the next year’s loan.
“Being employed full time made it harder to study. I would come back from work and feel that my body needs to rest. Later, I would sit studying from 10 pm til midnight. Or I would be sitting doing my work early in the morning from 3-5 am. I would then rest a bit and be up by 6 am, getting ready for work. When it was time for exams, Mandy would authorize study leave. That is how I achieved my goal, and it is like I am dreaming. I don’t even believe it myself that today I have completed my BA(HSSS) degree in Psychological Counselling.
Make hard work your friend
“What I can say is that you have to make hard work your friend not your enemy. And you can’t be a winner if you are afraid to fail. I failed so many times, but I never gave up.
“This is not the end of my journey. This year, I am continuing with my studies through DUT, registered as a Postgraduate in Health Science. Soon I will have Masters in Child and Youth Care Work.
“I humbly express my appreciation to Mandy Goble and the Board of Management for believing in me and walking with me on this journey. They have been my pillar of strength. Without their support, I was not going to reach where I am today. I am who I am because of them. Thank you.”