UWC Appeals To The Public To Help Struggling Students Like Zandile

Siboniso Mawandla | The Republic Mail

By Staff reporter

It is an everyday reality: tertiary education at this point in history is still a privilege not afforded – or affordable – to many; even to those with the intellectual potential and determination to succeed at any tertiary institution.

To curb the tendency of students to quit their studies simply because they can’t keep up with the financial demands of studying, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), has launched its Access to Success Campaign – a fundraising initiative with a difference.

Access To Success started last year (2016), where more than R1 million was raised in the phonathon linked to the campaign. This year the phonathon kicked off on 7 August and will continue until 31 August 2017.

“To date 93 students have benefited and currently students apply for this funding through our financial aid office,” says Samantha Castle, Manager of the UWC Alumni Office.

“Last year the focus was on calling on alumni, staff, corporates and friends of the University to assist students by donating, but this year we’re extending this invitation to the wider public.

“We’ve selected and trained students to work in the phonathon call centre and we hope to train a fresh group of students next year,” says Castle.

Zandile Gqada (25) is one of the students supported by the Access to Success campaign. She started studying at UWC in 2012, where she’s studying B.Com, a four-year foundation programme which she’s hoping to finish at the end of this year, majoring in Information Systems.

“I chose UWC because it is home to me; I know I enjoy a high quality of education,” she says. “And I chose Information Systems because I have an undying passion for this career; anything which involves working with people and coming up with solutions to identify problems comes naturally to me.

A determined woman herself, Zandile was born on 8 August 1992 in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. She celebrated her 25th birthday during Women’s Month, just one day short of being born on National Women’s Day. She is currently staying with her mother and her three-month-old son, Landile.

She has faced her share of challenges while studying:  losing her father, Lizo (one of her greatest supporters); attempting to work a 12-hour shift part-time job at a clothing store (and failing at her studies); falling pregnant (which definitely doesn’t make it easier to study). At some point she even considered suicide – but her faith in God brought her back from the edge.

“I took courage, because I needed to finish my studies so I can improve my circumstances. And at my worst point God guided me by revealing to me that he is the father to the fatherless and that I should trust him and go ahead with my studies, which I did.”

Being a hardworking person who pushes and dedicates herself to whatever she does, Zandile knows that success isn’t guaranteed – but hard work will make the difference.

Access To Success: One of the beneficiaries of the UWC initiative, Zandile Gqada walks on campus.

“Access to money was and still is a challenge for me as it is hard sometimes to come to campus because my mother doesn’t always have money, since she’s a pensioner and has to spend her resources on essentials like transport, to help with my studies,” says Zandile.

The toughest challenge for her while studying was losing her dad, being pregnant while studying and having to grow up fast and realising that the roles were now reversed – that she had to start looking after her mother.

“I realised that trying to work a part-time job at a clothing retail company, while studying, simply isn’t practical. So I stopped working and chose to concentrate on my studies even if it meant I had to do without the money I was earning.”

She went for student counselling and a nurse at campus told her that she was suffering from anxiety and that she had to work through it.

“I’m coping well now and I’m pushing myself hard knowing that I have a baby to look after as well.

“I believe education is a key to success,” Zandile says. She almost can’t believe she has reached her final year of study.

“I still have R 33 000 of study debt left which I hope to settle within the next few years.” she says.

“My fondest memory of UWC will always be passing,” she says laughing. “And the occasional good news when a bursary comes along, of course.”

She dreams of working as an information systems programmer for one of the major oil and gas companies one day, like Engen – a complex place with lots of different concerns and career options.

“I hope I find a job through which I can live out my love for problem-solving, my creativity and my keen interest in innovation.”

But first, she’s planning to complete an Honours in Information Systems in 2018. “In IS I’m free to express myself. I’m not afraid to come out of my comfort zone to mix with others and learn more.”

“The Access to Success campaign has made a real and significant difference in my life. I have already received R9 000 through NSFAS,” says Gqada. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life, and I thank everyone involved.”

To make a contribution, whether a monthly debit order or once-off donation, or for more information about the Access To Success campaign, please contact Ms Somayah Barnes at sbarnes@uwc.ac.za or visit accesstosuccess.uwc.ac.za.