In 1996, Ms Carol Newman (photo) left a career as a primary school teacher after spending 25 years working as an educator. This decision, fuelled by looming retrenchments that would see a younger teacher with a family and a newly bought home lose his job over hers, is a testament to the kind of teacher, mentor and assessor Bergzicht Training gained when Newman walked through its doors 19 years ago.
“I have always had a love for education and teaching,” explains Newman, “so it was natural for me to start working at an NGO like Bergzicht Training and to pursue my love for helping disadvantaged persons to empower themselves here.”
After leaving the teaching profession and with three merit awards for outstanding service to the Western Cape Education Department to her name, Newman initially got involved in numerous adult education and literacy projects run by the AME Church, Operation Andrew, ADRA-AusAID Western Cape and later Bergzicht too. During this time, and in a bid to improve her skills to educate adults, Newman attended several courses in adult education and attended a number of workshops at Helderberg College, Maryland Literacy Programme, and the Operation Andrew Literacy Project. On top of that she also completed a course at Kagiso Educational Training and in 1998 obtained a diploma in Adult Basic Educational Training from the University of South Africa.
It was while teaching literacy classes at Bergzicht that founder Cecile Kotzé extended an invite to her to facilitate the organisation’s Life Skills course.
“This course allowed me to provide our students with the skills they needed to improve their own lives, skills that we are taught from childhood and often take for granted in our own lives. Something as basic as having pride in your environment and not littering where ever you go, how to bake food or cakes in an oven, or how to deal and respond to cases of child abuse within a family setting, are skills that our students are often not taught as they grow up, but make a huge difference in changing their outlook on life and what is possible in their future.”
Many of Bergzicht’s students come from impoverished circumstances where access to basic things, like a functional stove for example, is a luxury, or where crime, an early pregnancy or drug abuse has derailed them from pursuing their life goals.
“When our learners come to Bergzicht one can sense both their desperation and on the other hand their eagerness to better their circumstances. All our learners come from disadvantaged communities and this is why I make it clear from the beginning of a programme or course that for some of our students this will be their second chance while for others this will be their first and only chance to make a meaningful difference in their lives and the lives of their families and hopefully in their communities.”
“I also encourage students to make the right choices because their future depends on those decisions. I can today proudly say that at the end of each programme and course I am
usually pleasantly surprised by the remarkable and positive changes that have taken place in our learners. This, along with the positive feedback we receive when our students are placed in permanent employment is what has made my work here so rewardable over the years.”
In 1999, Newman was promoted to Coordinator of the Home Management Programme (now iPOWER Foundation Programme) and later took over as Head of Training.
Asked about what has kept her going for such a long period of time especially at an NGO where one is faced with the sad reality of the real impact of poverty on South Africans, she smiles and says: “For me the biggest motivation to come to work every day was the hope that in a very small way Bergzicht Training can help to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness in disadvantaged communities.”
She is also grateful to have witnessed Bergzicht’s accreditation as a skills development training centre by Services SETA in 2008 and most recently the accreditation of the Health and Frail Care Programme by the Health and Welfare SETA (HWSETA).
“The HWSETA accreditation was one of the personal goals I set for myself before I was allowed to retire,” she jokes.
“Although I am looking forward to my retirement I know that I am going to miss Bergzicht Training tremendously. At the same time, I am thankful for the trust the Board placed in me over the years to implement their mission, vision and goals. I’m also particularly thankful to our CEO, Renske Minnaar, for the support she gave me and how easily we could work together for the betterment of Bergzicht Training. Mostly, I am grateful for all the staff who supported me in my tasks and endeavours and who worked with me to help turn Bergzicht Training into the kind of institution it is today.”