The long journey to a better education

Newly appointed teacher Fatimah Santon, 24, from Portland, and her daughter AIshah, 8.

While Portland teacher Fatimah Santon reports to her teacher’s post at Hillside Primary School this week, her eight-year-old daughter A’Ishah will start Grade 2 at Montague Drive Primary School.

Ms Santon, now 24, was just 16 and in Grade 10 when she gave birth to A’Ishah.

It has been a long journey since then but Ms Santon has not given up her quest for a good education and to uplift her family.

In 2010, on January 18, Fatimah started Grade 10 at the School of Hope then based in Bridgetown (“Matric mom, 19, gets A for perseverance,” Plainsman, January 9 2013).

School of Hope, now based in Observatory, is a registered special-needs school that provides hope through education for at risk and vulnerable youth.

“A’Ishah, my baby, was only two weeks old when I went back to school,” she said.

Fatimah matriculated in 2012 with three distinctions, while caring for her two-year-old daughter.

“I did not know what I wanted to study. All I knew was I wanted to study,” she said.

“I had my daughter. I needed ‘something’ behind my name,” she said.

She spent her first year at Stellenbosch University doing psychology, geology, political science and psychology. She was a first generation bursary recipient as she was the first in her family to attend university.

Her parents sell fruit and vegetables and Fatimah hopes with her education, she could improve her work status to care for her family.

“After the first semester I wasn’t too happy with my results and went to see a psychologist and discovered I have a passion for education,” she said.

“From 2014 I started afresh with a Bachelor of Education degree.With a Funza Lushaka Bursary, I was able to stay in residence a second year but I returned to my mom’s house the following year,” she said.

The bursary aims to promote teaching as a profession and enable applicants to complete a qualification in an area of national priority.

Bursary recipients must teach at a public school for the same number of years that they received the bursary.

Ms Santon graduated last year, applied to two other schools but got a call from Hillside Primary School, in Rocklands, to come for an interview.

She started her first job at the Rocklands school on Monday January 15.

Between the age of three and last year A’Ishah had been living with Ms Santon’s aunt Zuwayba Nazier and uncle Gasant, in Steenberg.

“I would visit and spend as much time as I could with her,” she said.

Ms Santon said she is forever grateful for their help in raising A’Ishah. “She completed Grade 1 excellently,” glowed Fatimah.

Today, Wednesday January 17, A’Ishah, starts Grade 2 at Montague Drive Primary School, in Portland.

“Life is always going to be hard. We are faced with challenges everyday. Every day everybody is at risk. It is up to us if we are willing to take the risk do something right or something wrong,” said Ms Santon.

She said teenage mothers should just push forward and “use those negative comments to push you to prove you can do it”.

“I’m in a position to teach others to survive or overcome teenage pregnancy.

“Teenage pregnancy is a big problem but it does not have to be the end. Push those troubles away and break the stigma – anything is possible,” she said.

Ms Santon got married in December and is living with her parents.

She wants to be settled in at home and at work before setting her sights on studying educational psychology.

Ms Santon has also been an inspiration to her sister Gafeetha, who took eight years to kick her drug habit and who is now a part-time University of Cape Town (UCT) student.

She is due to finish a two-year Higher Certificate in Adult Education this year.