People's Post

Granny breaks barriers as she realises student dream at 61

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Gail Conrad (61) from Hanover Park who is contemplating studying further with a NSFAS bursary.
Gail Conrad (61) from Hanover Park who is contemplating studying further with a NSFAS bursary.

After completing Matric at the age of 50, Gail Conrad will make history again when she starts her studies as an Auxiliary Social Worker at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Conrad, from Hanover Park, will know on Friday 20 January if her NSFAS bursary application is successful, paving the way for her studies.

As a child, Conrad wanted to study law, however, childhood challenges derailed her dreams. “When I was in high school many moons ago it was my dream to study law at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville. Unfortunately, life happened before I could finish my matric and I was involved with all the social evils in our communities,” she says.

Despite enjoying everything a young person explores while growing up, she always had it in the back of her mind to complete her matric at some stage.

“As you know, in our communities there are a lot of naysayers and when you share your dreams in your middle age, they are all surprised. Nasty comments such as you are too old to study, rather look after your grandchildren, relax on your stoep, get a new hobby and enjoy your old age, were flung at me and I started to doubt myself.

“Before I turned 50 I completed my matric at Alexander Sinton High in Crawford and this was also a mission. In 2011, I was adamant to finish matric and studied very hard, got all the textbooks and notes for the different subjects. I went to see the education department to inform them of my writing matric that year and they were very sceptical because of my age. I was informed that I won’t be allowed to write the exams and out of frustration I destroyed the textbooks etc. In 2012, the department gave me permission to write the exam and I started all over again and matriculated,” Conrad says.

When Conrad changed her life around when she hit 50 and decided to study, it was difficult to get support from the community to pursue her dreams.

“The Covid-19 pandemic put a hold on everything for nearly three years and when I attended a workshop at Blomvlei Primary in Hanover Park I met up with Washiela Bassier (facilitator at Blomvlei) and she advised me to go for it.

“Children are my passion and studying to become an auxiliary worker is the route I am going to take if and when my application is approved. Through the years I’ve worked at the Christine Revel Home in Athlone, at Parkfields Primary and the Lansdowne Police Station with children and realised this is the field I want to qualify in,” Conrad says.

When she saw Wesley Moodley, manager of the Centre of Excellence in Bishop Lavis, helping students with applications for NSFAS bursaries, she went to the venue in Hanover Park for more information.

“Conrad came without any documentation and came to find out what was happening. She asked if she can also apply and what is needed if her age is going to be a problem being a granny. I assured her age is not a problem and helped her to fill in the application forms,” Moodley says.

Since November until now, he has been travelling all over the Western Cape as far as Slangrivier near Heidelberg to help with applications.

“We focus on helping people who are hard hit by crime and in areas where we have vulnerable people at no cost. We are sometimes invited by individuals in those communities who made it in life to come and assist others who want to better their lives and this is how I came to know Conrad,” he says.

Conrad wants to encourage the youth to make use of all the opportunities afforded to them to study further, as they can pick and choose from all the different careers available. They should not wait until they reach her age to start studying, grab all the opportunities and seek help from people who have the know-how if they are unsure.

  • Contact Gail Conrad on 065 896 8907 if you can assist.


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