First-generation university graduate Chanell Classen defied the odds to live her dream. Picture: Supplied
First-generation university graduate Chanell Classen defied the odds to live her dream. Picture: Supplied

How Chanell Classen from the Cape Flats beat the odds to become a doctor

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Dec 20, 2018

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Cape Town - Chanell Classen, 25, has risen above the challenges of living in a violent and poverty-stricken area and proved to herself that her goal of becoming a doctor was possible.

Classen, who hails from Bonteheuwel, graduated two weeks ago from Stellenbosch University and said she was living proof that where you come from should not stand in your way.

She attended Kenmere Primary and Kensington High schools, and after being rejected by other universities because of her maths results, she persevered and was accepted at Stellenbosch.

“I thought about becoming a doctor but never thought it could be possible because there isn’t one doctor in my family. I would be a first-generation university student.

“I’ve got a single mother and it was just too expensive to study. But God knew. And my mom believed in me.

“We applied to Stellenbosch University and UCT, but after being preliminarily accepted, I was rejected after my final matric results. My maths was not good enough. This broke me,” said Classen.

She was eventually accepted at Stellenbosch University Health Science Faculty for medicine and has studied for seven years.

She said a major reason for her achievements was the guidance of her mother.

“My mom felt strongly about a stable education. For a long time we had no idea that my mom was unemployed because there was always food and she made sure we were happy. She pretended to go to work just so that we wouldn’t worry,” said Classen.

“Many say that it’s not about where you come from, but I think that it actually is about where I come from.

“I am stronger because I am from the Cape Flats. I can persevere because I had to go against the grain of teenage pregnancy and drugs.”

Chanell Classen, centre, with her friends Salwah Salie, left, and Rozleigh Roman. Picture: Supplied

Classen said she had faced similar challenges to those which other teenagers had faced in gang-ridden areas, and had used her willpower to overcome those challenges.

“I thank God that I have risen above my circumstances, because so easily my life could have taken a different turn.”

She had advice for other young people, and their parents.

“If I could do it, so can you. Fight for your dreams and don’t let anybody tell you that you are not good enough - not a university and not even your parents.

“To parents: all your kids need is love, prayers and encouragement.”


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Cape Argus

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