Despite dropping out of school at the tender age of 16, only to go back and complete her matric when she was 35, Sandra Rohlandt did all she could to ensure that her dream to become a nurse was kept alive.
Finally at the age of 45 that dream is becoming a reality. On Tuesday she graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing Science Degree which she passed with distinction.
After dropping out of school she worked at the post office for three years and after that for a doctor at Empangeni for five years. But all this time all she wanted to do was to be a nurse and she knew that she would need to go back to school for that to happen.
In 2005 she enrolled for matric part-time and to finance her studies she had to work as a care-worker in England for 3 months that year.
“I came back and I wrote my matric in December that year. I passed and then I came to the University of Zululand to study Nursing. I had written my subjects in standard grade which made it hard for me to qualify but I was accepted on the basis of prior learning experience,” said Rohlandt who had done other short courses.
Life at the University was not easy for Rohlandt who was the oldest in class but she quickly adapted. “Another problem is that I was one of the very few whites at the university so at first I thought I was going to be isolated. However I was accepted and I have since made many friends. The experience has really opened my eyes and mind to different cultures”.
Another hurdle she had to overcome was her lack of finances. “I could only pay up to the first semester of my second year. I was ready to drop out but one professor who was impressed with my academic performance referred me to the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) office and they paid for my studies ever since,” explained Rohlandt
In her first year she got two distinctions and “it just got better from there”.
Rohlandt now works at the labour ward at Greys Hospital in Pietermaritzburg as part of the obligatory one year community service.
“I hope to get a permanent job after this. It does not matter if it is in the public or private sector as long as I do what I love which is nursing”.
The mother of three says her children are proud of her but they could not be part of her big day on Tuesday. “My two daughters (aged 20 and 18) are in New Zealand and the son (aged 11) is in Abu Dhabi. They were saying they wished they were here”