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UWC alumnus follows his dream of becoming a full-time writer

Author: Harriet Box

South African-British writer Don Beukes tells the tale of how he fulfilled his dream.

(Published - 2 October 2019)

Don Beukes is a South African and British writer and author of The Salamander Chronicles and Icarus Rising-Volume 1. He also happens to be a proud alumnus of the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Beukes, who is originally from Belhar in Cape Town, previously lived in the UK where he worked as a teacher. He then moved to France where he lived his dream as a full-time author, for which he has received many accolades.

Beukes shared his UWC story from his current home in Spain. “My counselling teacher inspired me in matric to apply for a state bursary to study teaching. After passing the required subjects, pending a pass in higher grade Geography, I was accepted to study at UWC and a world of opportunities knocked on my door.

“I suddenly found myself in an exciting new community of intellect, aspirations, different viewpoints and other cultures and backgrounds. Despite growing up speaking Afrikaans, I was fully bilingual and English did not scare me as the language of tuition. Despite the apartheid flames still nipping at our heels and again threatening to destroy our hopes and dreams as it had done since secondary school, we stood firm and completed our studies with the support of our excellent lecturers and tutors, notably from Geography, English and Psychology,” he says.

He had to determine which strategy would bring him success. “I knew I had to push myself beyond my limits, coming from an apartheid school system, to secure my academic success and future career. My family always said that no matter what, no person can take away my qualifications. Without the support of the resource centres on campus and staff who went out of their way to give extra support, I would never have succeeded, and for that, I will always be grateful.”

Beukes graduated with a BA Degree in English Literature and Geography in 1992 and a HDE P/G Teaching Diploma in 1993.

As with many South Africans, a proud moment for him came when he cast his first democratic vote in 1994 - the year he began his teaching career at Eros School for Cerebral Palsy in Athlone.

“I am proud to say that my education was forged during the last two decades of apartheid and culminated at UWC.”

He left South Africa in 2001 after he was refused a bursary from the City of Cape Town to study towards a Master’s Degree in Town Planning at the University of Cape Town.

“I was recruited by a visiting group of British Headmasters of Secondary Schools and got a placement for five years, and eventually became a British citizen with dual nationality,” he explains.

“My memories of UWC include study groups, community spirit, a Geography Conference at Stellenbosch, braais, hiking trips and even my first visit to a township (Driftsands, Khayelitsha), assisting a Geography Master’s student with her thesis exploring how that community was destroying the fauna and flora.”

He says obtaining a degree from UWC has its benefits. “My UWC Degree was recognised in the UK and France. The only exception was the teacher training diploma, which obviously didn’t correspond with the French and UK curricula,” says Beukes.

He qualified as a British teacher after three years in service of the British education department. He retired from teaching in 2012 and went on to publish three books.

“UWC changed my life for the better. I am pleased to be associated with the institution.”​

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