Sixteen years old.
Not by accident, but the moment I heard that I was pregnant, my brain seemed to kick in again. I was in the penultimate year in school and preparing for my final exams which would happen the next year.
And there I was: pregnant.
Staying in school was not an option. That was just not done. I still remember us sitting around the kitchen table and talking about the future. One thing my mom was absolutely adamant about was that I would complete my school, and get my diploma. My father cared less about school, but more about the disgrace I brought to his ‘good name’. If he could’ve gotten his way, I would’ve had an illegal abortion.
With my mom so set on me getting my diploma — she left school without one to marry my father — ignited something inside me. No matter what, I was going to get my diploma. We talked about me doing a correspondence course to study for my diploma, but before we could make further plans, we had to go to the school director to officially notify him that I was leaving school, and why. It was during that conversation that I decided that I wouldn’t wait. I was going to get my diploma that very same year. Why? Because the director looked at me with this almost-disgusting expression on his face and told me to first have the baby, and then go back to school, but I was informed to go to another one, as they wouldn’t take me back.
We ordered the books, and I started learning. I had six subjects — Afrikaans, English, German, Maths, History and Geography. I made a plan on how to tackle it. I knew when the final exams would be, and I knew how many chapters I had to study of each subject. I took a whole day to make myself a roster, which included learning the stuff from the books, practicing mock exams, and studying for the final exams. There was one tiny snag in all of this: my due date was just before my exams would start.
Now for both Afrikaans and English, because those were the two compulsory subjects, we had three exams — oral, grammar and essays. I had already done my German, Maths and History exams, and was already past my due date. Then on Friday 11 November 1983 I wrote my first English paper. My second and third would follow on the Monday and Tuesday, and my three Afrikaans papers on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And then, in the next week on the Wednesday I had my two Geography papers, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
I was already almost two weeks overdue, when I wrote that first English paper, and there was just no way I could give birth the week after and miss exams. That’s what my mom thought, so she gave me castor oil. Only one or two spoons full, which afterwards I learned was barely enough to get things going, but whether it was the castor oil or a mindset or just human nature, at midnight I had the first contractions, and less than four hours later my daughter was born.
The next week, every day I had an exam, my mom picked me up at the hospital, took me to do my exam and brought me back to the hospital. I was discharged on the Friday after, had only my Geography exams to do, and did. A month later I learned that I had passed, and three months later I started university, a year earlier that I would’ve, had I not fell pregnant at sixteen. And, my mom and I visited the school director, and presented him with my diploma, because, that day when we told him why I was leaving school, and he told me I can’t study and have a baby at the same time, I told him: “I can, and I will show you that I can.”
And I did.
In my second year of my study I needed to do a month-long internship, and as I was studying to become a PT teacher, and also teach in Afrikaans, I applied for an internship at my old school, and was accepted.
For many years I have just accepted this as part of my life’s history, and didn’t look at all of this as being a big deal, but I know this is not just any kind of history. There is one thing I have learned from my mom: perseverance. When she put her mind to something, she succeeded, like finally getting her school diploma the year after I did, doing the same correspondence course I did.
I never completed my studies, because of a sports injury. I transferred to another study, but it was too political for my liking. Then in 2006 I did a basic diploma, and just carried on studying until in 2011 I received my Bachelor in Business Administration, with a specialization in Teaching. It was damn hard to do it, study AND have a full time job, but I did. I showed the world — but mostly myself — that I can do it. And I know I can. When I put my mind to things, I can succeed.
All I have to do is persevere…