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25 January 2019
Only one university for Van Heerden family
Schoolteachers Vanessa and Nicky van Heerden met while studying at UWC when the country was in the last throes of apartheid. They say they learnt much about the “realities of South African society” under apartheid and as a new democracy dawned while on campus.

“I opted to study at UWC because I knew about Bush’s struggle history,” says Nicky, who graduated with a BA in Human Movement Studies and a Higher Diploma in Education from UWC. Vanessa completed a BA degree majoring in Afrikaans and Psychology.

Nicky was the captain of the rugby first team from 1987 to 1990. “The game of rugby was part of the struggle for liberation and non-racialism in sport and the society.”

Vanessa met Nicky through her rugby-loving brothers, who also studied on campus. The couple have been married for 26 years.

Their son, Ché, completed a BA degree majoring in Sports Science and Psychology at UWC in 2016. “I wanted to go there because my parents went to UWC. My motivation for this decision was based on the many conversations I had with my parents about their years at Varsity and the struggle for freedom they were part of. I also liked the history of the University and I wanted to play rugby,” says Ché.

His sister Andrea is a first-year BA student at UWC. Andrea played provincial level netball at high school and hopes to join the UWC team in 2019.

The senior Van Heerdens feel their children have grown up in a very different country. “It was difficult with our background to raise our children in a new era. Ché is a born-free and both our children are very involved in sports where they have friends across the racial and cultural divides. We realised that we couldn’t raise them based on old ideas and that we had to keep them open-minded, but still instill in them the ideas and beliefs we had about human rights,” says Vanessa.

For this family, there was only one university to attend. Ché says UWC was the gateway to his dream of becoming a personal trainer and teacher. “We would definitely not change a thing about going to UWC and if we had to make that choice again, we would still choose UWC.”
“My roots are at UWC,” adds Vanessa. “The quality of education at UWC has always been good.”

Caption: (from left) Ché, Vanessa and Nicky van Heerden are proud graduates of the University of the Western Cape, while Andrea (far right) is a first-year BA student at UWC.​