If you look, you will find opportunities for further study

I am a 44-year-old woman from Eastwood, a traditionally coloured residential area in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa’s nine provinces. I went to school at Eastwood Primary and Eastwood High School in the city.

After many twists and turns in my educational pathway, I ended up in the tourism industry.

After matriculating or finalising my secondary schooling in 1995, I studied dental technology at what is now the Durban University of Technology (DUT). It was not something I was passionate about but, because I had mathematics and science at school, I met most of the subject requirements, so I chose that.

In the 1990s, we were not exposed to much career guidance. Even subject choices at school were limited. Because I did well in maths, I was put into the science class. In hindsight, after studying managerial economics, I would have been much further in my career as an entrepreneur had I studied business economics at school. Economics is a subject that everybody should learn as it pertains to the economy of the country and the world.

Initial challenges

When I got to the then Natal Technikon (now DUT) I finally realised the limitations of my government school education. Art, music and guidance subjects were deemed ‘free periods’. No learning took place. I struggled with the subject tooth morphology, which required me to draw and carve three-dimensional teeth. I had no concept of technical drawing, so I failed this subject in the first year.

Also, assignments had to be typed out and I had never accessed a computer before. My father initially paid for dental technology, but when it came to my third year, he could not afford it. I had to drop out and seek employment.

Fortunately for me, my academic career was not over. I subsequently worked for a business school that was affiliated with DUT, and discovered my passion for marketing and economics. I was able to study business management and operations management free of charge.

I soon started my own business school and named it Business World. I had to supplement my skills and knowledge to run this business, so I studied further. I saved up, funded myself, and completed qualifications in education, namely skills development facilitator, assessor and moderator.

Look for free education

I applied for a scholarship to Henley Business School in 2015 and completed my postgraduate qualification in business management in 2019. I always search for free education. There are many opportunities available to finance further study; you just have to actively look.

I started a short tourism management course in February 2022 and finished the free training at the end of May 2022. Subsequently, I have attended various capacity-building workshops and stakeholder discussions arranged by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal to strengthen the industry in the province.

As the owner of a farm I utilise for agri-tourism, I have to balance my time between outside work and building maintenance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to take on these tasks myself due to limited resources. I did administration in the evening and set aside two hours on a Saturday for studying.

Tourism management is very interesting. I especially enjoyed the case studies of best practice in the tourism industry. It opens your mind to being strategic and resourceful. The older you get, the easier studying part-time becomes. As an adult student, I have more discipline and I know that what I am learning is beneficial to my business, so I am motivated.

Career guidance is essential

I believe in lifelong learning because the world is forever changing and we need to stay relevant in the business world. Cellphones, for example, have replaced many business products like cameras, videos, computers, and landline telephones. Even encyclopaedias, dictionaries and training courses are becoming dinosaurs because you can Google just about anything these days.

Career guidance and skills assessments are essential at the school level. Educators need to be more informed and not exclusively advise learners to go the university route because, in most cases, university graduates have no working experience and struggle to make a living.

Each industry has a sector skills requirement and scarce skills are published every year. The artisan industry has fewer qualified people each year and that is an opportunity. Learnership opportunities are available whereby learners get exposed to theory and work experience while receiving a stipend.

I encourage everybody to keep getting educated.

Brian Khoza, a regular contributor to University World News, co-wrote the blog.