Self-determined, hard-working, and self-assured are some of the words which come to mind when thinking about Gift Somakwabe.
Born and bred in the east of Johannesburg, she is the first-born of two children in a family of four. She matriculated in 2015 and didn’t quite know what she wanted to study. “I found myself on the Soweto Campus of UJ, doing my first year for a National Diploma in Accountancy at the beginning of 2016.”
At the time it was discouraging for her, as many of her peers were enrolling for degree qualifications and not for diplomas. Like many students who face financial difficulties on their academic journeys, Somakwabe struggled to get funding for her three-year Diploma in Accountancy. She explains that “I struggled with funding because the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) rejected me. I don’t come from a well-off family as my late father was a salesperson and my mother was a cleaner.”
Having found student accommodation in Brixton, her mother found a way to pay for her rent while she continued with her studies. Taking the bus to Soweto campus every day to attend classes, Somakwabe remained focused on her education. While she faced challenges such as having her semester results blocked due to non-payment, Somakwabe’s parents did all they could to assist their daughter in completing her studies. She expands:
After being assisted by UJ’s Student Representative Council (SRC), as well as my father and uncle, and being awarded a bursary to study, I started staying at the Hector Pieterson Residence on Soweto Campus. I had no food during the first three weeks of being there – I was living off tinned foods, eggs, and bread. It was tough.
Fast-forward to the present, at just 26, Somakwabe stands as a proud UJ Accountancy graduate. Thinking to herself that a Diploma was not enough, she continued with an Advanced Certificate in Accountancy which took her a year to complete. In 2020 she completed her BComHons in Internal Auditing at UJ and was also an academic trainee. During this time, she began tutoring students and became a mentor to them. She also started a YouTube channel and opened a Tik Tok account to engage and mentor students virtually.
Somakwabe currently works at auditing company PWC as an Internal Auditor and was recognised as the 2022 Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa (IIASA) Young Internal Auditor of the Year.