Manenberg woman dreams big


It was a dream come true for Zubeida Abrahams when she graduated with a business degree from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), earlier this year – 23 years after matriculating because her family could not afford to send her to university.

The 39-year-old woman, previously from Manenberg matriculated from Silverstream High School in 1993 but could not enrol at a tertiary institution because she could afford it. Growing up in Elbe Street, Manenberg, she lived with her mother, father, two sisters, and her brother. Knowing that she could not afford to study in 1994, Ms Abrahams applied for a job at the Farrelli clothing factory in Maitland. She got the job and worked as a cleaner, cleaning the garments, and later moved on to the cutting room. In 1997, she left the company because there was no growth for her to move on to a better position.

Ms Abrahams said the challenges that Manenberg faces now, existed since her childhood.

“The challenges then is similar to what we have now, the drugs, alcohol abuse, gangsterism, teenage pregnancies were also high. Growing up I actually wanted to be a librarian because I love reading, my mother would always scold me because instead of doing my household chores I would be reading,” said Ms Abrahams.

After matriculating, Ms Abrahams wanted to join the police force but her father said she had to choose between a career in the police force or the safety of her family.

“I actually wanted to join the police just before my 18th birthday, but my father said that we live in an area that is dangerous and if you are known to be part of the police force, the gangsters actually target you, so I had to choose between a career in the police force and the safety of my family, and that’s why I ended up at the clothing factory,” she said.

Later in 1997 she enquired about a computer course offered by the Department of Labour. She applied and completed the course three weeks later at the Academy of Learning in Cape Town. In January 1998, Ms Abrahams saw a vacancy in the newspaper and applied for a job at Telkom as a call centre agent. She got the job and was made permanent in June that year.

In 1995, Ms Abrahams married her husband, Ashraf, 47, and moved to Mitchell’s Plain. Later the couple bought a house in Surrey Estate.

In 2010, she applied to do a diploma course in business at CPUT in Bellville, which the company paid for. In 2013, she was, however, retrenched from Telkom.

The Abrahams couple were then forced to sell their house. They bought a house in Eerste River last year and moved into the house in November after doing renovations.

Ms Abrahams graduated in 2014, and applied to do her B.Tech degree in project management in 2015 but was unable to graduate in April this year due her fees not being settled. Three weeks later she received a letter from the university saying that she could graduate but will not receive her results unless she pays the balance of her fees which was R32 000.

“It felt so good to graduate, it was an accomplishment. I didn’t think that I would graduate because I still owe CPUT money. When we got our results I didn’t know that I passed, and nobody would give it to me because I owe R32 000. A couple of weeks later I got a letter saying that I can graduate but I won’t receive my results just a letter saying I’m graduating. That was the only thing that prevented me from studying further, because I didn’t want to put myself in more debt,” she added.

Ms Abrahams is now working at Sanlam as an administrator. She has two daughters, Ameerah, 19, and Amaarah, 12. She will be celebrating her 21st wedding anniversary this year.

“I am so happy to be working now, I don’t have the worry about not having an income. It’s a very good feeling knowing that I did not succumb to the circumstances when living in Manenberg, but it is sad also when I see the people I grew up with who are now drug addicts. When they see me in the road they tell me they admire me. They are aware about the opportunities they have missed, (some) are not motivated to change,” she said.

“I teach my girls that they need to be strong enough to walk away from bad, and face other challenges from a young age. I’ve encouraged them to be entrepreneurs. My eldest daughter has been doing henna patterns since Grade 6, and Amaarah has been doing face painting for the past week. I am teaching them to be self-employed and not to depend on others. My husband is very supportive, he was very excited about my graduation. As long as you have a family that supports you, you can do whatever you want,” she added.