Academy helps Phumza dream big

Phumza Matwele, who has been helped by the Raymond Ackerman Academy, runs a shop with her husband, Michael Odjokolo.

While the lack of funds prevented Phumza Matwele from studying beyond matric, nothing could stop her from dreaming big.

More than 10 years after passing her matric and seeing her dreams to study further go down the drain, Ms Matwele now owns a thriving business, thanks to the Raymond Ackerman Academy (RAA) for Entrepreneurial Development.

The academy is a post-matric level institution at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, at the V&A Waterfront.

Since its launch in 2005, the academy has been training and offering support to ambitious South Africans from 18 to 30 years of age.

It is a legacy programme for one of South Africa’s most successful businessman, Raymond Ackerman, who founded Pick * Pay, and was designed to help those who could not afford to study beyond matric.

Beneficiaries are trained by highly qualified and experienced academics for six months at the business school.

To date, more than 500 people have already benefited from the programme.

“The idea is to upskill and uplift young people to go and study further or open their own businesses,” said Nareenam Africa, administrator for the project.

Most importantly, she said the programme also acted as a key to university entry. She said beneficiaries could, after completing the course, study anything at any university of their choice in South Africa, even if they did not have a matric certificate.

“All we need is people who are committed and dedicated to studying and changing their lives,” said Ms Africa. She urged deserving individuals to apply for the next intake.

The applications close tomorrow, Friday May 26, with classes scheduled to start in July. There is a nominal fee for the course.

The academy offers ongoing support to beneficiaries until they are fully operational.

One of the beneficiaries, Ms Matwele, said she had struggled to study beyond matric. She thanked the academy for helping her.

In 2015, she enrolled with the academy after seeing an advert in a newspaper. The mother of three, who at the time was heavily pregnant, said she decided to take a chance and apply. She had been working at a jewellery store, having had numerous stints at various retail stores.

“I always wanted to study business, but I could not because of money,” said Ms Matwele, 32, who graduated from Thembelihle High School in Graceland, Khayelitsha.

“I was not sure if they would take me because of my age,” she said.

Fortunately, she met all the requirements.

At the end of the six-months training, while contemplating her next move, Ms Matwele got a call from the academy telling her about a possible business opportunity: a leading drug manufacturer wanted people to start businesses in different communities.

In September 2015, she started the business in the crime-infested area of Endlovini. Due to business robberies, she was forced to move to a safer area.

She now runs her shop, with her husband, Michael Odjokolo, at the corner of Spine Road and Makabeni Drive, opposite the leafy community of Ilitha Park.

“We are getting a lot of support from the academy. The academy is always there for me. I always cry to them whenever I need help,” said Ms Matwele. “They also give you a mentor to support you.”

The business offers “emergency” medical assistance and sells over-the-counter medication. Ms Matwele also conducts tests for blood pressure and diabetes. “I am looking forward to studying further,” she said.

Ms Matwele described the course as challenging but rewarding. “There is no time for babysitting. The work load continuously increases. As a beneficiary, you are expected to be in class every day,” she said.

Classes run from Monday to Friday daily.

Applications forms are available at the UCT Graduate School of Business, Portswood Road, Green Point.

You can also call the school at 021 406 1422.