Although she couldn’t do better than 12th position in a year that had a high number of academic performers, she says the effort helped to focus her goals.
“It made me realise that I had the ability to achieve with the right amount of hard work and effort. I was also aware that if I managed to secure an A or B aggregate, I would qualify for a rebate on fees at UWC,” Tamima says.
Armed with a B aggregate, she registered for a BSc intending to do dentistry but performed poorly in Chemistry, which she had not done at school. She then switched to Law and blossomed, making the Dean’s merit list three times and graduating cum laude with both her LLB (2003) and later, her LLM (2014).
“When I secured the position as a top-performing LLB student, I messaged Mr Ford to say I managed to meet his challenge, albeit a few years later,” she recalls gleefully.
UWC’s system of materially rewarding academic excellence was a powerful motivator, as she wanted to ease the financial burden on her family. She worked immediately after matric to be able to pay her registration fee and received a 75% fee rebate in her first year. In her first and second year of law studies, she received funding from TEFSA (now NSFAS) and in her third and fourth years secured a 75% bursary through the Attorney’s Fidelity Fund.
Tamima says, after a fairly sheltered upbringing, she was pleased to find a nurturing environment and sense of community at UWC despite the diversity of cultures. Like many a law student, she well remembers the calming influence of Dr Izak Fredericks. “Dr Fredericks was the go-to person for most problems which Law students needed to have addressed by the Faculty,” says Tamima.
After doing her articles at Miller Du Toit Cloete Attorneys and being admitted as an attorney in 2005, she accepted their offer of a position as an associate attorney and remained with the family law firm for close to 10 years.
Tamima says, “The most significant role models of my adult and professional life prior to UWC were the directors of the firm, Zenobia du Toit and Judy Cloete [now a High Court judge]. It was their guidance, knowledge-sharing and encouragement during my formative years as an attorney together with their unquestionable work ethic and integrity that helped shape me into the person I am on a professional and personal front.”
She returned to UWC in 2013 to serve as Proctor, dealing with student infringements of university rules. Tamima pointedly says that her role was not purely that of a prosecutor but she tried to also ensure that “the disciplinary process served as a life lesson and an opportunity [for students] to improve and take better charge of their lives and future.”
In her current role, where she contributes to policy development and governance, Tamima says she is happy to be part of the development of Udubs where, despite the transformation of the campus, “the culture and comradeship remains unchanged”.