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20/04/2018

Despite the challenges of an impoverished childhood, raising three children (two with special needs) and supporting a husband battling cancer, 52-year old Zenobia Olivier has fulfilled her life-long dream of studying further.

“I always had a dream of studying, to become a teacher but my dad had a brain injury due to a motorbike accident and my mom became the breadwinner, so they could not afford to send me to university,” said Zenobia.

Zenobia has three sons Waldo, 30, and twin boys Jacques and Heinrich, 25, the twins were born prematurely at 27 weeks and sustained brain injuries. They are both quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and need 24-hour care.

“They cannot talk, but when they smile everything is worthwhile,” says Zenobia.

“I always had to work to help support my family and started working in an accounting department of a big insurance company. In 2002, I enrolled and opted for the accounting field. However, due to the twins’ ill health, I had to stop my studies. When the boys turned 20, ten years after I first enrolled, I said it was now or never, and I resumed my studies”.

Zenobia studied towards a National Diploma Internal Audit part-time and enrolled in as many subjects as she could manage, with the aim to finish before she turned 50. However, in 2014, their lives changed again, when Zenobia’s husband was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable cancer, with endless chemo sessions and despite a stem cell transplant, the cancer returned after three months and chemo started again. Zenobia was forced to slow down her studies as the twins and her husband needed her care. 

“I struggled to pay my fees as the boys care and all the medical bills for my husband was a big financial burden, nevertheless by God’s grace, we did it, “said Zenobia.

Her next step is to do her SAIPA board exams, hopefully in November to register as a Professional Accountant.

“Never give up on your dreams, don’t just aim for a pass, aim for the stars, work hard and you will receive the rewards,” is the advice Zenobia would like to pass on to other aspiring graduates.

Zenobia will graduate on Monday monring - 23 April 2018.

Contact information
Ms Lyndall Sa Joe-Derrocks
Publications Practitioner
Tel: 27 41 504 2159
lyndall.sajoe@mandela.ac.za