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1 October 2019
A journey of self-liberation and determination
Annalise Jonkers-Stoffels was a second-year BA student in 1994, but her vision of freedom in that momentous year was not of voting in a constitutional democracy, but of being financially independent and making her own life choices.

Growing up in Montana and attending Belhar Secondary, she could not help being conscious of UWC. Not only was the campus a stone’s throw away, but many of her teachers, family members and neighbours were alumni or current students.

The eldest of three daughters, she had wanted to study journalism at Rhodes University but her father wouldn’t hear of it, so off to UWC she went. Although not politically active, she vividly remembers the atmosphere on campus and the experience of voting as “euphoric”.

“We had this idea that it is going to happen for us, we are going to make it happen,” says Annalise. She decided to apply the same attitude to her studies which went very well. Her hardworking parents would happily have funded her studies all the way to PhD, but after graduating in 1997 with majors in English and Psychology, all she wanted was to be independent and earn her own money.

In 1999, after more than a year as a client service agent at Bankmed, the company offered her an opportunity to become a team leader and to fund her studies towards a BCom or BAdmin. However, she rebelled against the “thought of being under someone’s thumb” for four years of part-time study. A chance to au pair in the Netherlands seemed like a good match to the urge she felt to find herself.

Her plan was to work in Holland for a year and then travel in Europe, South America and Asia, doing volunteer work.

“But then I met my husband and we decided that I should return to Holland. But I said I am only coming back if I am able to earn my own money because I can’t come to a foreign country and be dependent on a man – I am allergic to that!” says Annalise.

Thanks to her degree, she found work as an English and remedial teacher, first tutoring and counselling youth at a high school and then at a college. To improve her qualifications in development psychology, she did her honours through UNISA (2009).

The Dutch system did not accommodate part-time study, which meant she had to resign to attempt her Master’s full-time at Utrecht University in 2010. Unfortunately, says Annalise, for various reasons, full-time study proved too much of a challenge. “I find the Dutch education system very restrictive, especially for working adults and females,” she says. “In South Africa, my mother did her Master’s part-time at UWC while she worked full-time.”

In fact, her mother (Anne Stoffels) was a part-time BEd student doing her remedial teaching when Annalise was in her second year. Annalise says, “She had to go to classes during the day and I would travel with her to save taxi fare. So we attended Udubs together for one year.”

Annalise struggled for years between identifying as South African and as Dutch, before she realised that it was okay to have two cultural homes and her heart in two places.

Her struggle has proved to be a useful resource in her current job as an integration specialist working with adult Middle Eastern refugees. Her core job is to teach them Dutch, but she also tries to orientate them to Dutch culture and the job market.

Annalise says, “I don’t have the same experience because I came to Holland by choice – they fled. I try to make them feel that there is someone who understands that you have to learn to survive in a foreign country. I am educated, I spoke English, I spoke a bit of Dutch, I spoke Afrikaans, but it took me 15 years to adapt.”

Annalise says she follows UWC developments through social media and was quite impressed when she read of the new healthcare campus in Bellville. She hopes to visit the main campus when she holidays in Cape Town in December.