A degree come true

Czeslyn Isaacs, 50, from Montrose Park graduated with her undergraduate BA degree, majoring in psychology, at the University of the Western Cape.

A 50-year-old Montrose Park university graduate did not let her circumstances deter her from realising her dream of pursuing a tertiary education.

Czeslyn Isaacs graduated with her BA degree, majoring in psychology, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). She is currently studying for her postgraduate certificate in education at the same university.

Ms Isaacs is a first graduate in her family – and the only one with a degree, she added.

It took her five years to complete her undergraduate degree which is normally completed in three years. She failed some of her major subjects in psychology and had to repeat it in her studies.

Ms Isaacs grew up in Eastridge with her family. It was challenging growing up as her mother and father were divorced. Her father gained custody of Ms Isaacs and her sister Glynecia Welkom, 41, at the time.

“Growing up, it was really challenging for me. I attempted suicide. I suffered from seizures and fits but they have gone because of my mother’s prayer,” she said.

Ms Isaacs dropped out of school in Grade 10. She fell pregnant at 19 and it was difficult.

However, years later she knew she had to do something with her life. She heard of studying opportunities at The Farm Recreational Centre in Montrose Park, and applied to study.

She studied at the College of Cape Town and finished her matric in 2012, level 2 (Grade 10), level 3 (Grade 11) and level 4 (Grade 12). “I passed so well and that was my motivation to go to university,” she said.

“I developed a passion for children. Through this I applied to study psychology at UWC. They declined but I did not give up. I did a recognition of prior learning (RPL) course, a bridging course. This helped me with my acceptance at UWC in 2015,” said Ms Isaacs.

In 2016, she was a full-time first-year student at UWC, and she was usually the oldest person in the class but she was in class every day.

“Psychology was challenging; I loved the theory but the statistical work in it got to me as there was math involved.

“In my second year I failed a subject and redid it in my third year. In my third year, which was my fourth year in total, another failed subject but I wasn’t going to give up my dream of pursuing my academic career,” said Ms Isaacs.

Ms Isaacs had a difficult time with her younger son, 26. He was addicted to drugs at the time of her studies. It wasn’t easy as she had to juggle helping her son get better, studying and keeping her household in check. Today her son is going through rehabilitation, she said. Her eldest son, 31, was also supportive of her academic journey, she said.

Ms Isaacs works with the City of Cape Town helping homeless people, placing them in shelters and counselling them. She is also involved in the prison ministry at Shekinah Full Gospel Church in Beacon Valley but they have not been to prisons because of Covid-19 protocols, she said.

She celebrated her graduation with her family and friends on Monday May 3. “My husband, Gavin Isaacs, 54, was my anchor. He has a full-time job, but he would prepare the food and make me go study and sit with my books – he knew my heart. I also challenged him to go study,” she said.

Mr Isaacs said since the day she broke the news to her husband about studying further, he knew that he had to support her in her endeavour.

“As time went by while she was learning, I started learning from her. Czeslyn is a selfless person, she thinks of others before herself. Czeslyn used the knowledge that she gained to help others. ‘n Ontmoeting met Czeslyn, en jou lewe is nooit meer dieselfde nie,” said Mr Isaacs.

“When you are in her conversation you don’t want to leave and when you leave, you won’t leave the same as you came,” he said.

Ms Isaacs’ mentor at UWC, Zeenith Sydow, said Czeslyn is a God-fearing person, a good listener, and she is easy to get along with.

Ms Sydow said she is also a very determined person, as a student, she is conscientious and hard-working. She has a high level of perseverance and is extremely self-motivated.

Classmate Bealita Phillips said Ms Isaacs is a very humble and spiritual human being. A person that never has a negative viewpoint of another person but always sees the good and positive side of any situation.

“As my buddy, we spent hours together studying, sharing and talking. No matter what the situation was, she has always shown kindness and love and gave such beautiful spiritual encouragement. I miss those days but mostly I miss my friend,” she said.

“I dreamed about my experience – I wasn’t going to let life, nor my age, get in the way of pursuing my dreams of obtaining a degree in anything I wish to study. I made sure I gave my biggest smile ever in that robe. If I can do it, you can do it too,” said Ms Isaacs.