Our office has been alive with alumni popping in over the last three weeks. Home from university for the holiday, they share stories with old friends, help with tutoring and remind us that their growth is the hope that grounds our work.
The widest smiles greeting their entrance are often from the Career Portfolio, whose role is aimed at building these real futures on the foundation of that hope.
This week, we are getting to know Career Assistant Sive Mda. Herself an Axium alumnus, Sive joined the team in January after graduating from Walter Sisulu University (WSU) with a degree in Social Work. She brings the significant skills of her training, and the real insight of experience. More than anything, she promotes the importance of determination.
“I am always sharing,” Sive said of her conversations with students about the challenges she had to push through to get where she is, “getting them to understand that it is not always easy.”
Sive’s story shows the importance of the work she now does. Attending high school at Dudumayo, she participated in the Axium senior school programme during 2011 and 2012 before the careers work developed. “We didn’t get that chance to be exposed as much as they are now. So when we went to university it was a totally different place with different lifestyles and everything,” she said.
Though she now laughs about feeling lost and following classmates, her point is a serious one about how much prior knowledge is assumed of those who enter the tertiary space – and how much work must be done to fill the gap where adequate entry support isn’t offered.
As a result, she and Careers Lead Thuliswa Nodada dedicate significant energy to preparing people for studying, alongside exposing them to possible career paths and helping with applications. They work with learners and Jumpstart gap year students as well as with Axium staff and broader community members.
Theirs’ is a hefty workload with daunting responsibility. “If we maybe lack somewhere, it can feel like gambling with their lives because at some point some of them rely on us to do their applications,” she said, brow creased with concern.
Managing stress is not new for the young social worker, though. From the annual struggle to register despite rising debt to borrowing laptops to type her assignments, making it through her own university journey was always an exercise in tenacity.
Believing in the base of education sustained her. Growing up between two families, Sive sometimes struggled with feelings of belonging, but said her mother would encourage that educational success would allow her to belong “only to herself”. This was a message she held to. “So in this education that I was studying for, I said ‘This is my belonging. I want to belong here. I want to grow up here. I want to build something for me’,” Sive said.
Although Social Work was not initially her first choice, interest in the field developed as she experienced how it built her own ability to face challenges. “I’m glad because at some point I found social work is more about understanding yourself better than anyone else would,” she said. “If it didn’t choose me, maybe I would have been a drop out from the university.”
Having completed her studies, Sive applied the grit she had gained by deciding to start volunteering for experience immediately. She began at the hospital in 2017. “When I started volunteering, even though I knew I wasn’t getting money for that work, but the work that I do motivated me to stay,” she explained.
This proactivity paid off. It was not long before Axium approached her to work part time as the Careers Assistant. Within a few months she had successfully secured a Buelah Africa internship that now supports her work between us and the hospital.
Axium is happy things have worked out this way as having a social worker on the team is very beneficial. Sive's training helps her engage with learners more holistically. As a result, she feels she is using her degree everyday.
“You have to wonder what is going on outside the school. That on its own is a social workers job,” Sive concluded.