Graduating tops against all odds

Zahrah Barlow, from Ottery

Rene Tobin, Lotus River

Zahrah Barlow, 21, was applauded for being the only graduate in her faculty graduating summa cum laude for achieving 28 distinctions in all her 28 subjects and then again being awarded the dean’s medal for the faculty of health and wellness sciences.

Zahrah started studying for her three-year diploma under rather difficult circumstances. Although she couldn’t afford to study, she managed to obtain a bursary from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. She enrolled for somatology in 2020 and made sure that nothing stopped her from giving it her all.

Born in Ottery and raised by her mother, Pamela Barlow, and grandmother, Sheila Barlow, Zahrah many times had to struggle with the daily life of gangsterism. There were nights when studying became impossible because of shootings, and, on the odd occasion, it made her miss class.

Her grandmother would walk her to the main road to get public transport, and, at night, would wait for her upon her return. Winter was the worst as walking in the dark (and load shedding didn’t make it any better) was unsafe. During Covid, she couldn’t attend classes and did online work with load shedding ruining most of her online lessons.

When things in the area became very bad, we decided, as a family, that she should stay with us (in Lotus River) for safety reasons.

On Tuesday April 18, the auditorium at the CPUT Bellville campus rose to their feet, ululating to the announcements of Zahrah’s achievements.

Zahrah is an inspiration because she never allowed her circumstances to get her down. Her perseverance allowed her to reap the benefits of all the sacrifices she made.