Cape Town - An international student from UCT is beaming with pride after she graduated despite being dealt heavy blows during her years of study.
On Tuesday, Sarah Nzeka received her Bachelor of Science (BSc) in chemical engineering, 12 years after registering for the course.
Nzeka, who is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said she had survived isolation during the pandemic, financial exclusion, a violent physical attack, and the death of her father.
“I was excited and looked forward to a great journey, but the transition to UCT was challenging. The pace was different, and I also registered late and missed orientation and the first few weeks of classes. I didn’t know how to find resources and lecture venues.
What seemed to be minor challenges became bigger problems later on.
“As a result, I had poor results at the end of the first year, and my scholarship was not renewed after the second year. In 2014, things took a turn for the worse.”
While travelling on a train, Nzeka was attacked and thrown from it. She sustained serious injuries, including a fractured skull and impaired hearing. Her injuries prevented her from returning to class for a month. Then, just as she was about to fall back into her routine, Nzeka’s father died.
“2017 was a really hard year for me, I was financially excluded from school, and in the November my dad died. In 2019 I came back to school with the help of my family. In 2020 I received once-off support from the Klaus-Jürgen Bathe programme, which covered my tuition. I still had to work,” she said.
“I’m grateful for the support of my family, my mom especially. She encouraged me to pursue my studies, despite my circumstances,” Nzeka said.
During her studies, Nzeka held down about 10 jobs. She taught English online, and transcribed and translated from English to French. She also worked as a computer lab assistant, an assistant manager at a guest house, and as a waitress and babysitter.