Natasha Dietrich, 47, says she is not stopping until she receives her doctorate. Photo: UWC
Natasha Dietrich, 47, says she is not stopping until she receives her doctorate. Photo: UWC

From cleaner to qualified teacher

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - A Belhar mother has defied the odds and is living proof that hard work and determination can make your dreams come true.

Natasha Dietrich, 47, will be graduating with her Bachelor in Education from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on May 5, 2021.

The mother of two had for years worked as a cleaner and had only a secondary level of education, a matric certificate.

Dietrich’s journey to becoming a qualified teacher began when she started as a casual worker with Bidvest Prestige in 2011 as a cleaner.

In 2014, she was given a permanent position; however, working among students sparked something inside her.

Dietrich said she worked at ResLife, where students spend their time studying.

She said she witnessed the commitment of the students as well as their struggles and thought to herself: "If they can do it, so can I.“

In 2015, on the last day of registration, Dietrich submitted an online application.

The devoted mother said she was scared when she found out she had been accepted and thought now she had to face the reality of studying and working at the same time.

UWC paid for her fees.

She managed to juggle life and work, attending classes at the university before her eight-hour shift began at 3pm.

Dietrich said she completed most of her assignments at night and her success would not have been possible without the support of her family, especially her husband, and her children aged 18 and 30.

“I knew that I had to do something and that I had to make a difference. I come from a very poor community where there is a lot of unemployment and gangsterism.

“Teaching was the best direction I could have chosen. To be surrounded by children, and to have the opportunity to teach them, has been the best thing,” she said.

Dietrich has been teaching Grade 5 and 6 mathematics and social sciences at the Dr Van Der Ross Primary School in her community since January.

UWC’s executive director of finance and services, Manie Regal, said Dietrich’s achievement was testament to her determination.

Regal said it took commitment and grit to work and finish such a demanding degree.

He said what was pleasing was how this opportunity had been successfully used in a life-changing way.

Regal said Dietrich’s story was one of many successes at the university where anyone, regardless of circumstances, can receive a quality education.

The education faculty dean, Professor Rajendran Govender, described Dietrich as industrious and dedicated to her studies and as someone who exhibited good character.

“She was always brimming with ideas that helped to resolve problems and promote collaboration among her peers,” he said.

Govender said the faculty was convinced Dietrich will make a positive impact wherever she goes.

However, this is not the end of the road for this determined mother, who vows to hit the books again next year as she looks forward to doing her honours. “I am not stopping until I have my doctorate,” she said.

There is certainly no stopping this dedicated teacher from Belhar, who lives by the mantra, “You’re never too old to learn.”

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