“I grew up in a township called Tembisa in Johannesburg,” explained Brenda. “Tembisa is an isiXhosa word that means promise, and although there wasn’t much promise in that overcrowded area, I made a vow to myself that I would complete my education and move on to a better life. I believed that my situation was preparing me for something better. My dream was to become an independent woman who could give back to her community and, in the end, it was with the help of SAEP and ADT Teach that I was able to do this.”
Brenda was raised by her single mother on her part-time salary as a domestic worker. Life was not easy for the family and Brenda would sometimes have to attend school on an empty stomach. To try to make ends meet, and to buy herself toiletries and other essentials, Brenda was forced to take up work after school once she reached high school.
“I almost made the wrong decision in Grade 9 – I was comparing myself to my friends at Allanridge Secondary and my situation felt hopeless. I had no money for books and stationary, I was having to work part time just to keep food on my plate and my head above water. I wanted to dropout,” said Brenda.
Nevertheless, she remained enrolled, and in Grade 10 joined a new computer class that was being offered to her year by SAEP in partnership with ADT. Run as an afterschool programme; the course aimed to develop digital skills for students at under-resourced schools in order to help close the gap in digital proficiency between schools and the workplace.
At first Brenda didn’t understand why she needed to learn to use a computer. It seemed irrelevant to her other subjects and many of her fellow learners began to dropout. But, encouraged by one of the instructors, Brenda stayed the course under the advice that it would one day help her in the future.
Brenda applied to many different universities in her final school year and was accepted into the University of Pretoria, provided that she pass a compulsory academic information management (AIM) test. Unaware of what the test would entail and how it would be presented, Brenda was startled to see that it was a computer-based test and that the questions were identical to what she had been taught in her high school computer programme.
Brenda passed with a distinction and picked up the course as a full-time module. She was invited to tutor it the following year and used the skills she had learned to provide private classes as a way to help pay off her tuition and living expenses. Now, having almost completed her Education degree in Mathematics, Brenda is on her way to realising her dream of sharing and passing on the knowledge and inspiration that will help others who are growing up in circumstances similar to her own.