Before coming to South Africa, Charlotte never imagined that she would be able to further her education past high school. A chance encounter with a stranger in a taxi led Charlotte to Scalabrini – she now holds a BA degree in Management specializing in Logistics and Operations.
Studying with UpLearn
Charlotte’s journey with UpLearn began in 2018. When she completed her Associate of Arts (AA) she experienced her first graduation. “It was amazing! There were 28 student’s graduating and everyone was very excited. After receiving our certificates there were many tears … but they were more like tears of joy.”
After graduating, Charlotte began her BA in Management. Students are given four years to complete their AA and BA, but it took Charlotte just over a year. “The journey was really a difficult one. Whenever you accomplish something in a short period of time, it’s going to be tough.” Being a mother of two young children and having duties to do at home whilst finding the time to study is not always easy. This was where Charlotte saw huge benefits with UpLearn. “[With UpLearn], you can choose your own schedule and working online is flexible, you can do it at night when your children are sleeping or on weekends when their father is there.”
When Charlotte first came to Scalabrini she accessed Employment Access and through being at the office she met some of the UpLearn students – and she immediately let Employment Access know that she wanted to study too. Charlotte’s dreams were almost dashed when she was told that UpLearn was full. “I was so disappointed, because I really wanted to educate myself. After a month I received a call from EAP saying one student dropped out from the programme, but there was a long waiting list. I didn’t know if I stood a chance. I decided to apply and sent my application. They then called me in for an interview. After two weeks they contacted me and said congratulations I made it through! That was the happiest day of my life.”
Life before UpLearn
While still living in Zimbabwe, Charlotte worked as a secretary and furthering her education was just a dream. “In Zimbabwe if you do not have mathematics your chances of going to university are very slim. I never knew that I would end up at a university and leave with a degree.”
“I was not an A student, but if you look at me now, you can say I have a degree. With dedication and perseverance, you can achieve this. [Before UpLearn] I was very shy. Through being equipped with different skills and being part of workshops where you have to facilitate sometimes, I have learnt to become bolder and more confident. I have become more confident because I have gained skills.”
Charlotte felt supported by UpLearn during her studies and always knew that there was someone to assist with problems relating to studies or personal problems. “There is constant support available to students. Even during Covid they gave us 10 gigs of data so we can complete our assignments and last year every student got given a laptop. They (UpLearn) always provide resources.”
A dream realised
At the time of speaking to Charlotte, she was busy with an internship with the Global Education Movement (GEM), where she is responsible for graduate support and helping with CV’s and cover letters – similar work to the services she first accessed at Scalabrini with the Employment Access Team.
UpLearn is a part of GEM launched by SNHU in five different countries: South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia and Lebanon. Charlotte assists people from each of these countries. GEM’s aim is to address the reality that worldwide there are more than 65 million refugees and other displaced peoples and only 1% have access to higher education. The objective of the initiative is to give those who may be prohibited from accessing tertiary education by financial or legal barriers an opportunity to empower themselves through education.
The internship was supposed to be three months, but when the interview took place her internship had already been extended more than once. “I started in June 2020. It was supposed to be 3 months, but they decided to extend it with a month. They extended it again and now I am still there. I am enjoying it and I am so grateful to be granted such a wonderful opportunity.”
With a firm interest in logistics – Charlotte hopes to one day work for a transport company in the logistics team – specifically focusing on keeping packages safe. “I read in so many cases whereby some goods are being lost when transporting them. I would like to introduce an idea or a system of different packaging, which makes sure the goods arrive safely at their destination. We don’t want to have a case where goods are lost or broken.”
Since this article was written, Charlotte’s internship at GEM has turned into a part time position as Assistant Editor.