There was no money for me to study…

Yet, I graduated from university on three occasions. I’m going to need to start this post in 2003, three years before I’d finished high school: I remember standing to greet the teacher in my Grade 9 class; from where I sat I had direct view of UCT (The University of Cape Town) and I remember whispering to a classmate, ‘That’s my future.’ 
It would be a great tale to tell you that I geared up and that my trajectory was a natural one but I faced many challenges getting there. Two years after my assertion my, then, single mom was struggling to put food on the table. At sixteen I decided that I would start working. I got a job a Dodge Diner and made waffles and drinks for a year before becoming a waitress. My job allowed me to pay for my own toiletries and I was able to save money to buy some of the trendy clothes that my friends’ parents could afford; I was a teenager and I also wanted to fit in. My matric year was an interesting one. I continued working even though we had to prepare for three sets of examinations during that year. If I took some time off it was one of the two shifts I’d work over the weekend and I would use the other day to study. I quickly learnt time management, a skill that I believe has helped me achieve many of my goals since. During that year my mom insisted that I apply to university and promised that she’d make a financial plan. I knew that paying for my fees was impossible on her disability grant but I don’t remember doubting her promise. I matriculated with today’s equivalent of a bachelor’s pass, a matric endorsement with merit, which meant that I qualified to go to university. My mom got in touch with the right people and managed to secure a NSFAS student loan. I went to university and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Industrial Sociology and with R52000 student debt. I had a part-time job the entire time I’d spent at university. I would work at a store in the V&A Waterfront on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening and would work every Saturday and alternate Sunday. My mom had, in this time, bought a car for me to get to class and to work and my responsibility was to see that I had money for petrol and my own entertainment. I was responsible for getting my younger brother to his social gatherings and, when he’d matriculated, home from his late shifts at work. I remember feeling really pressured in this time. I was really young and had so many responsibilities that I became a really angry and resentful person. On the one hand I had loads of freedom and, on the other, that freedom came at a cost: the realisation that any slacking would amount to my failure. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though, because I had a healthy social life and a mom who made every effort to unburden me, so I did not have any house chores! 
I graduated and did not know what to do next. A few months down the line I arranged a meeting with the headmaster at the high school I’d attended. We’d come to an agreement that I’d enter into a learnership where I’d teach two classes while studying to get my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). The school would pay two thirds of my student fees and I would have an allowance. I need to highlight that I’d left being an assistant manager at a store for this opportunity. It was great that I’d be working towards a future career but, at the time, it meant that I was going to earn a quarter of what I had been earning at the store. I should probably add that the idea to visit the school came to me while I was sitting in church so I trusted that, if the headmaster said yes, it would be the correct decision for me. We know today that it was but that period came with its own challenges: my mom had to find R9000 to pay towards my fees, which she did. I also had to, once again, work and study at the same time. My classmates would often burn the midnight oil which I struggled to understand because they had more free time than I did. I had to prioritise and plan school lessons while ensuring that my submissions for university were completed. In this time I’d started dating Wesley (yes, the husband Wesley) and, fortunately, he was in his third year, which meant that we could see one another at campus. Because I’d quit my mall job, my weekends were somewhat free and we could juggle assignments and relationship time. I have a fond feeling towards this time because I realize now that it was the real start to the future Wes and I would build, both academically and relationship-wise. 
I graduated after a year of studying and landed my first teaching job at the same high school I’d been apprenticed to. I earned a full salary and was able to join a medical aid and contribute meaningfully to my family home. I’d bought my first car and the car my mom had bought was handed down to my brother (hand-me-downs is the reason I’ve loved being the older sibling!). This was an interesting time because Wesley had graduated but he’d gone on to do post-graduate studies. So I had a car and a monthly salary and he had quit his bar tending job because his hours were too demanding and he, too, had to do a practical stint at a company. When he’d started earning his on-site allowance (I call it that becuase it wasn’t a salary) we’d begun saving towards our first overseas trip. So on one salary and an allowance we’d managed to visit his brother in Wales over Christmas and had made our way to London to celebrate that New Year. 
But I wasn’t done, yet. I felt that I’d wanted to do more and, six months before we’d gotten engaged to be married, I’d registered at UWC (The University of the Western Cape) to study my honours in English Literary Studies. So on top of a full-time teaching job and planning a wedding, I’d also signed up for the hours and payment of university studying yet again. I will fast track this one becuase it’s a little more recent. We’d planned and afforded our entire wedding and I was able to pay for and complete my studies, doing far better than I had in previous qualifications. I should tell you that my honours thesis was due two weeks before my wedding. Man, was I a zombie in those weeks! But that’s a post for another day. The thing that I should mention was that I was still paying off the R52000. Yes, I’d gone on to have my studies funded and was paying for my second post-graduate studies while carrying the burden of my first degree. My ambition didn’t match my pocket; that’s the difference between privilege and financial struggles. Anyway, my mother-in-law offered to pay the last installments to take the pressure off and had said that I could pay it back when I had the money. Our wedding was in October when she’d offered this to me and, when I received my bonus that following April, I paid her back and I was, finally, free of student debt. 
What a long story! I’ve written it to share that it took years to build who I am and what I have today. Very little was handed to me and I learnt very early that hard work and sacrifice is the reality for some people. I should tell you that I resented my friends who  had parents who were able to pay for their wants and needs. Not having privilege means that you have to work much harder to keep up with your peers in class or those who will be competing for your job. I would not change a thing about my journey, though, because it has made me dynamic individual I am today. I’ve also written this post in hopes that a young person will read it and take courage through their challenges. I sometimes wonder if I would have done or achieved more if I’d had an easier ride in terms of time and money but I have witnessed many people waste the time they have had and so I don’t dwell on it for too long. 
I’m so grateful to have a mother who supported me in the way that she could; she’s taught me perseverance and I think I’ve inherited her fighting spirit. I don’t quit and that’s what allows me to keep creating the spaces I want to live in. I’m also so fortunate to have a husband who goes along with my every whim if it makes me happy. I’m thankful, daily, for his support and all that we’ve been able to build. 
Yes, this post is quite raw in its structure and writing but I guess it shows the vulnerability around some difficult times in my life and I don’t believe that I could perfect it because at different moments, different parts of my journey stands out more than others. 
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and would love for you to share some of your journeys to strength and success. 
Bronny xx

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11 Comments

  1. Claudine
    March 6, 2019 / 7:25 pm

    Wow. Ive got new respect for you. I loved reading this. I could relate. Thank you for showing the raw side of yourself. I wish to one day be as comfortable to talk about my journey aswell.

    • bronwyn
      Author
      March 6, 2019 / 7:35 pm

      Thank you! And for taking the time to read.

      I wish that for you, too.

  2. Xenel
    March 6, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    Absolutely love this. I am currently going through this struggle and it gives me the strength to push through all this. Thank you for writing this. I appreciate it.🌻

    • bronwyn
      Author
      March 6, 2019 / 7:50 pm

      I am humbled that this list could encourage you and I wish you well!

  3. Zaakiyah
    March 6, 2019 / 7:45 pm

    This post is really an inspiration ❤, I can relate to so many things and its like ma’am said you wont change anything because it made us become the person we are today ❤

    • bronwyn
      Author
      March 6, 2019 / 7:49 pm

      And I know for a fact that you are an amazing and strong person. Thank you, Zaakiyah. Thank

  4. Lesley-Ann Lindhorst
    March 7, 2019 / 8:15 am

    Wow thank you for sharing Bronwyn♥️

  5. March 7, 2019 / 9:24 am

    Absolutely love this, i absolutely have new found respect for you……… I am currently going through this struggle and it gives me the strength to push through all this.
    Thank you for writing this
    I appreciate you for sharing your personal life
    with us. Amazing!!!!!!!!

  6. Victoria Davis
    March 7, 2019 / 10:56 am

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I have so much respect for you!.

    Keep on doing what you love. You inspire me xx

  7. Michaela
    March 30, 2019 / 3:35 pm

    Wow! Reading this post definitely makes me feel more appreciative of my struggles during my studies. Nothing as hectic as yours but darling I respect you so much! God continue to bless your hard work.

    • bronwyn
      Author
      April 14, 2019 / 7:21 pm

      Thank you so much. We all have our struggles and I think that it is an important message to share with the youth so that they do not expect that success always happens easily.

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