News & Events

Karen’s story: ‘Unisa is my beacon of hope’

Karen, a brave alumna and current student, recounts the harrowing tale of her life’s journey, and how Unisa’s beacon of knowledge helped her to pull through.

‘I choose to withhold my surname due to the sensitive nature of this article,’ says Karen. ‘I had registered for two qualifications previously with Unisa, but as a result of a psychiatric setback following a long history of sexual abuse I didn’t complete them.’

Mum’s the word

Karen says that further incidents of sexual abuse followed when she was a young student and first-time employee, resulting in severe psychiatric and physical conditions being diagnosed, with chronic medication being required for the latter. ‘My mum, with a single parent’s perseverance, saw me slowly being rehabilitated into being able to think for myself once again until I was well enough to begin substitute teaching,’ says Karen. ‘The impermanence of substitute contracts took its toll, and the vicious cycle of unemployment was slowly sucking the life-blood out of me.’

Karen says that she eventually married at the age of 32. ‘I met a quiet, patient man, who became my steadying compass and silent protector. I didn’t feel so alone anymore and I didn’t feel the need to look for something; my young enquiring spirit had been endlessly restless and reckless.’

Never lie down

Her father, who lived a considerable distance from her, fell seriously ill in 2016. Karen had to commute long distances from her home to his to provide the necessary care, resulting in further employment challenges. Then came a cathartic conversation with her dad. ‘’I remember saying to him, “Dad, I just feel like giving up!” In his mind there seemed no question about it. He stood up and said: “You have to fight, you have to fight till the end! You’ve got to do what you have to do and get it done!”.’


Inspired by his passionate words Karen registered for a Postgraduate Certificate in education, selling possessions and making other sacrifices in order to pay the relevant fees. Friends and family also generously contributed. Karen passed her final exams and obtained the qualification (sadly, her father had already passed away by that time, but to the end he remained confident that she would succeed).

‘I have since been studying for a B.Ed (Hons) in Inclusive Education,’ says Karen. ‘I enjoy working with learners with special needs as I have special needs. Obstacles remain, but I take great pride in the fact that I have ten years of experience as an educator and am a published poet and author of two books.’

A beacon of hope

In conclusion, Karen says that Unisa gives her hope. ‘My sister said: “We want you to study because we see how it inspires you during your periods of unemployment”. I love being intellectually stimulated. I love especially writing conclusions in my essays when I realise that my premise has been justified. Intellectual stimulation drives me. Unisa drives people to be the best that they can be. Unisa allows studies to fit in with hectic job and family schedules. Ultimately, Unisa empowers!  Education is the key to knowing who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for. Thank you, Unisa!’

Publish date: 2018/06/21