“After more than two decades of working in an office environment, mostly in the frontline, I always wanted more out of life. To grow and have something behind my name. To chase that dream, I completed a few short-course certificates from different institutions, but that was still not enough for me. I still felt I wanted more; something was missing," Tom said.
Tom then learned that UWC offered free education to staff members and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. On Friday, 9 September 2022 she was one of the over 700 students who celebrated the completion of their studies at the Spring Graduation, having finished her Bachelor of Administration, part-time.
“I knew that I was in the right place at the right time. Before that, I didn't think I would even qualify to study for a degree as I had passed my matric many years ago.”
Being a 42-year-old single mother of two, the journey for Tom and her family came with challenges.
“My kids had to get used to a mother who comes home after 9pm from classes, Mondays to Fridays. My Saturdays were no longer our family time, but I had to meet with a group on campus to discuss and do assignments.
“I remember in November 2017, while writing my first exam, when my then fiancé called and broke off our engagement. I was already crushed by the unhealthy relationship we had, but the timing made it worse. From there, it was just downhill.”
Two years prior, her sister passed on, and she had to take in her two children. Tom also took in her 90-year-old grandmother as she was living alone.
“My two-bedroom house felt like a box of matches. Most of the time, I would have to wait for everyone to sleep in order for me to sit in the lounge and study. We all had to adjust to new ways of living. It was a struggle.”
In 2019, she was disqualified because she struggled with one module. She wanted to quit but decided to apply for re-admission which was successful. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Tom, who works in the Dean’s Office in the Faculty of Education, said she will forever be grateful to UWC for allowing her to realise her dream.
“My former manager, Patricia Lawrence, had so much faith in me. She was my number one motivator and always encouraged me to keep pushing, telling me that it is doable. Today I know I needed people like her,” said Tom.
“I want to encourage women my age, especially single mothers. I know that most of us did not get opportunities to study further when we finished matric due to lack of finances and other challenges. It is not too late ladies. If you still want to realise your dreams, go for it.
“Be aware of opportunities when they present themselves and seize those moments. I believe each person is meant to have that moment presented in front of them in their lifetime, so be aware. Open yourself up and you will reach your destination, regardless of your age and where you come from.”