This Cape Town mom went from being a university cleaner to bagging a bachelor’s degree in education

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Bubbly Natasha Dietrich from Belhar has obtained a bachelor's degree in education from the University of the Western Cape. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Bubbly Natasha Dietrich from Belhar has obtained a bachelor's degree in education from the University of the Western Cape. (PHOTO: Supplied)

She’s spent the past few years practically living at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Each day Natasha Dietrich would rise at dawn to be at the university in time for her first class at 8.30am. By 3pm, Natasha would change into her cleaner’s uniform and start her nine-hour shift, sweeping, scrubbing and polishing the lecture rooms, halls and bathrooms.

But her hard work, dedication and lack of sleep have paid off: Natasha is now a qualified teacher and says it’s all been worth it.

READ MORE | This Cape Town teacher is determined to make a difference at his struggling school: ‘You can’t teach starving children

The 47-year-old mom enrolled at UWC in 2014, inspired by the hard-working students she saw studying at the varsity during her night shift. 

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Natasha's family were very supportive throughout her studies. From the left is son Chandler, husband Andre Charl Dietrich and the left is son Welldine. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“l felt I should take advantage of the environment I was in and that I should give education a go,” Natasha tells YOU. “I also wanted to set an example for my own children.”

For five years, she’d wake at 6am and help her youngest child, Chandler (now 18), prepare for school. Then she’d walk two kilometres from her home in Belhar to UWC’s Bellville campus to attend her first class.

By 3pm, when the rest of the students were getting ready to head home, Natasha would change into her uniform to start cleaning. “People used to look at me because of my uniform and they used to look down on me,” she says. “But I wasn’t ashamed. I used to go to the library to study while still wearing my uniform.”

On weekends, the little time she had was spent with her boys, Chandler and big brother Welldine (now 30), and doing assignments. Now all the blood, sweat and tears have culminated in triumph: Natasha is set to graduate on 5 May with a bachelor’s degree in education.

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Natasha considers her mother Margrieta Witbooi as her hero. (PHOTO: Supplied)

She’s modest about her achievements, though. “To wake up so early in the morning, go to class and then start working from 3pm to midnight was quite exhausting. But I just had to make it happen,” Natasha says. “Education doesn't come cheap – you must sacrifice and be willing to work long hours.”

She was selective with her field of study, she adds. Natasha wanted to inspire her sons but she also wanted to help shape the minds of the next generation of kids. “To be able to play a role in the development of children and the way they think about something was one of goals,” she says.

READ MORE | Meet the matriculants who defied the odds by acing their exams

Natasha started a new chapter in her life in February when she was hired as a teacher at Dr Van der Ross Primary School in Belhar. “It’s such a joy to see the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they understand what you’re teaching. I’m happy to be making a difference in their lives,” she says.

Natasha now plans to further her studies. “Seeing as it’s my first year teaching, I want to settle in. Next year I want to do my honours.”

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