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24 October 2018
UWC alumna achieves a dream deferred
Dr Soraya Beukes had to leave school when she was 16 years old to go to work as an administrator in the hospitality industry to supplement her family income. Remarkably, in her 40s, she decided to pursue a lifelong dream and joined UWC as a mature student.

Since then she has obtained her LLB, LLM and LLD at UWC. An Erasmus Mundus scholarship enabled her to spend six months of her LLD research at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Brussels where she received a Certificate in International Doctoral Studies. Thanks to another Erasmus Mundus scholarship award, she is currently conducting postdoctoral research at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain.

“You could say that I got a second lease on life by embarking on a university degree at a mature age,” Dr Beukes says.

Dr Beukes was born in Ceres, raised in Rawsonville and lived in District Six before moving with her family to Manenberg.

Attending university after so many years of working was not an easy feat. “I plucked up the courage and went for orientation, the oldest among all these starry eyed and bushy-tailed 18-year-olds. Orientation was a nightmare. The University was so big I feared that I would not find my lecture hall!

“After the first assignment where I received a distinction, I earned my stripes and my classmates started warming to me, resulting in a study group that lasted through the four years of LLB studies and friendships that continue today,” says Dr Beukes.

During her LLB studies, she earned 18 distinctions and a place in the top eight of the dean’s merit list. Initially, Dr Beukes had planned to study as a full-time student for one year and thereafter complete her degree at Unisa while working.

However, she was able to continue funding full-time study through NSFAS loans and student jobs. “I even ran for SRC (the oldest member) and made it to become Gender Officer. This position paid for one year of my studies and I soon realised that earning distinctions also earned you money to pay off your fees.

“The wealth of student assistance and tools available at Udubs encouraged me to continue and do my master’s degree in law. A Graduate Lecturer Assistant (GLA) bursary, which required me to tutor and lecture while reading my full thesis, was of great assistance.

“My message to old and young is that it is never too late to start studying and lifelong learning will enrich your life more than money ever will. Knowledge is the absolute power to change the world. As a human rights lawyer I envisage enriching communities such as Manenberg with knowledge of their constitutional rights and how to access them,” says Dr Beukes.‚Äč