Former School of Accountancy student Shanice Davids has emerged as a shining example of what can be achieved despite one's disadvantaged background if you make the most of your opportunities.
Not only has her perseverance and excellence secured her an honours degree in Management Accounting in 2019, but it has also paved the way for her to be able to complete her articles at LDP Inc., an accounting firm in Stellenbosch. She will be acknowledged as a Chartered Global Management Accountant when she completes her articles in three years' time.
It is heady days for the 22-year old from Kurland Village, a township outside Plettenberg Bay, where poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and health hazards such as tuberculosis are commonplace.
“It wasn't always plain sailing," says Davids. “I grew up poor and struggling. My biological father died when I was in Grade 1. My mother and grandmother were both domestic workers. There were nine of us living in my grandmother's house where I stayed till I was 16 – my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, a cousin, me and my three sisters and, later on, my stepfather. At times there were also other boarders and more cousins that stayed there as well. That meant that you did not always have your personal space or privacy.
“We had cases of domestic violence in the house and some relatives were abusing alcohol. Seeing that happen made me determined not to go that route because I know the impact alcohol can have on a person and a family."
But thanks to the intervention of Born in Africa (BIA), a non-profit organisation committed to the long-term educational development of underprivileged children in the Bitou Local Municipality District, she was spared this fate and her life went in another direction.
Established in Belgium and South Africa in 2003, BIA provides educational and social support through bursaries and mentors to school-going children and young adults aged six to 25.
“The Born in Africa initiative is very involved in our community," said Davids. “Ever since I started school I knew about the organisation. In my Grade 3 year they came to my teacher and asked if she could recommend anyone that would qualify to be inducted into their programme. And that's when my journey with them started."
Isabelle Brink, the general coordinator at BIA, takes up the story. “We took Shanice into our programme because she satisfied our selection criteria – motivation and attitude at school, excellent school results and she passed our assessment tests in Afrikaans, reading and mathematics. In primary school, our support mainly focused on the emotional and social part of her life. Struggles she had with herself, friends, family and things going on at home were discussed with her mentor and Born in Africa would help and support where possible. She also received a new school uniform, school bag and stationery every year. She was part of our life skill camps and outings.
“Shanice achieved good results at the end of primary school, which resulted in her obtaining a bursary from Born in Africa to attend Wittedrift High School and stay at their hostel as well. The bursary covered all school and book fees, transport to and from home and hostel fees.
“In Grade 11 Born in Africa's academic coordinator had several talks with Shanice about her career options and interests. It became clear she wanted to become an accountant and with her amazing school results, it wasn't hard for us to enrol her at Stellenbosch University.
“Once she got in at Stellenbosch University, we continued to support her both emotionally and financially. We paid for student accommodation, gave her a monthly allowance and paid her university fees."
It is at SU where Prof Danie Brink, Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences, and his wife Louise, were assigned as Davids' godparents. Godparents are basically benefactors who make tertiary education possible for children in the BIA programme. The Brinks, along with other co-godparents, helped to cover the costs for Davids' BCom Financial Accounting studies which she completed in 2018. They also partly funded her honours studies.
She is grateful to BIA for the path they walked with her since she was nine years old. The funding over the years has lifted a big burden off her shoulders. Her mentors and godparents have become life-long friends, she says.
She smiles. “I was sitting here in the office at LDP the other day and I was thinking about where I came from and where I am now. I still can't believe that I somehow managed to reach these heights."
But then her smile fades. “I wish my grandmother was here to see what I have achieved. She passed away when I was in my first year at Stellenbosch. We were very close. I could share my hopes and dreams with her and, without fail, she would always encourage me."