As matriculants begin the next phase of their lives, a 23-year-old Bonteheuwel woman who overcame the odds to succeed is stressing the importance of getting a good education.
She hopes to inspire youth on the Cape Flats to strive to do better and not become a statistic of unemployment, gangsterism or drug abuse by working hard towards a tertiary education.
Juandré Ruth Sparks lived in Bonteheuwel until the age of five then moved to Mitchell’s Plain to live with her grandmother but returned to the area last year.
She attended Arcadia primary school and high school and stayed with her grandmother during the day and only left at 6pm when her dad came from work.
This became her daily routine for 13 years – leaving the house at 6am and only returning at 6pm. She had to adapt to the new surroundings and make sure her homework and assignments were completed and that she had studied despite being exhausted from waking up very early for school each day.
She said growing up on the Cape Flats was tough as she witnessed a lot of violence while leaving school everyday. She said there were times where the school was shut down and exams postponed due to gang fights and class was often interrupted to be searched by police.
“Not being able to leave the house to go to the library due to the chaotic shooting was one of the things I endured. It served as a lot of negativity and stress on me. However, my family always helped out in anyway possible even if they had to obtain information for me,” she said.
After she matriculated, she decided to change her future by going to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and completed her undergraduate qualification in 2017 with a double major, specialising in management and information systems. She completed her honours degree in 2018.
As proof that hard work definitely pays off, when Ms Sparks could not afford her honours tuition she worked part time in retail to pay for her studies until she received a scholarship. She also became a tutor for UWC in order to make payments towards her tuition.
“I have chosen this programme as I firmly believe that it would strongly enrich my future studies as well as provide me with a solid step towards helping me accomplish my prospective career as an expert in the field of information systems.”
She said that technology is something she has been become passionate about since being exposed to it in her first year in university back in 2014.
“I’m often asked why I decided on majoring in technology and my answer was simple. Technology has never failed to amaze me and being fortunate enough to be right at the centre of a generation where the technology is revolutionising the world is a blessing to me, as I am able to keep up and observe the impact that it has on the world. For me, the most attractive aspect of technology is problem solving. And this served as my motivation to project an out of the box way of thinking and wanting to become an expert in the field,” said Ms Sparks.
She completed her honours degree in Information Systems in October 2018 and expects to officially graduate in April this year.
“It was a moment of utmost delight, joy, happiness and a moment of sadness as my late father and grandmother was not able to celebrate it with my family and I, since it has been one of my long-term wishes to obtain a degree. But having obtained my second degree in only a year, served as a confidence booster and motivation to achieving all my life goals that I’ve set out for myself.”
Ms Sparks said her reason for pursuing a tertiary education she was motivated by her passion for learning and obtaining new knowledge as well as improving her family’s standard of living.
“I wouldn’t say that the community in which I grew up encouraged me to achieve my short- and long- term goals as I firmly believe that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve anything they set out for themselves. My family served as my motivation to study further. Through all the hardships at home, their encouragement motivated me to work hard in school, to be accepted into university. My family serves as my motivation for my success as my main aim is to improve my family’s standard of living as well as give back to the community.
“Through my personal dedication and perseverance I’ve adapted various studying methods during the chaotic times. I’ve made use of the various resources available to all students on campus.
“During exams the campus library would be open 24/7 and I would take advantage of that. There were many times where I found myself studying the whole night on campus preparing for my exams. I owe all my success to my entire family for always encouraging and supporting me throughout my academic career. I especially owe my success to my late father Lawrence Smith for motivating me to strive beyond my limits,” she said.
Her advice to youth would be not to allow their background and the community they grew up in to define who they are and what they can achieve.
Through personal dedication, hard work, sacrifices and perseverance you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to, said Ms Sparks.
“Do not allow any negativity to set you back in life. Each and everyone of us is capable of achieving our goals, we shouldn’t give in to our hardships during the process. I’ve personally experienced many hardships during my academic career. I lost my father in my second year of studies and a year later my grandmother. However, I still managed to pushed through and it even motivated me more. During the same year of losing my father I achieved excellent results and was recognised by the International Golden Key honour society for my hard work.”
She said that in order to prevent youth from joining gangs due to boredom more after school and holiday activities need to be established for the youth to partake in.
“Even if it is computer classes or sports. This will help motivate the youth in pursuing their passion and learn new things.”
Her future plans include gaining practical experience in her field of study as well as saving money to obtain her Master’s degree and PhD in the future.