This week, we’re sharing the remarkable stories of our 2019 Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds winners. We are delighted to introduce you to Justine Haines, a young woman who is overcoming extreme hardships in her fight to provide for her family and reach her goal of a career in Early Childhood Development.

When Justine was 16, her parents separated and her disabled mother and two sisters lost their family home. The family were forced to move into a one-room shack in the informal settlement of Ivory Park in Kimberley.

Still in high school, Justine had to work to help put food on the table for her family.

“Working odd jobs to feed my family became my only priority but lead to me failing matric in 2012. I was devastated but applied to re-write my exams in 2013 and between working half day and studying on my own, I passed matric.”

Justine always dreamed to be a teacher, but this dream seemed out of reach for her.

“For as long as I can remember, teaching has been a life-long dream of mine. A dream that I was convinced would never be realised due to my failing matric and our seemingly ever deteriorating socio-economic circumstances.”

In the years after matric, Justine was the only breadwinner in her household as she continued to work odd jobs.

“We survived from day-to-day, so it goes without saying that a tertiary education was never an option for me or any one of my sisters. I thought to myself that studying beyond matric was impossible.”

Eventually, in 2017, Justine met a woman who had finished her ECD studies through Oxbridge Academy and was employed as a nursery school teacher in a wealthy suburb of Kimberley.

 “She encouraged me to consider doing the same and I thank God for this chance meeting, as my outlook on life has never been the same since then.”

Justine also enrolled for her N4 National Certificate in Early Childhood Development, studying part time while also working at an ECD centre.

“I have truly gone against the odds. For the last 18 months I have been studying and working, and achieved full distinctions in my ECD N4 final exams. I am currently completing my N5 and also taking care of my family while doing so,” Justine says.

Justine reflects on a journey filled with challenges and battles:

“I could write a book about all the hardships our little family of six has faced. Pages could be filled recounting every sacrifice we’ve made while trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, selling your valuables for food; enduring hard labour for small change; walking great distances for water; sharing toilets with your neighbours; selling handmade goods door-to-door and losing one’s self-worth.”

Now however, she says that she has new hope.

“Oxbridge Academy has enabled me to re-evaluate my life and re-claim control of its trajectory.”

We are proud of you for overcoming such huge odds Justine, and we look forward to helping you on your journey to success. You are an inspiration and a worthy winner of the Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds.

Next week, we share the story of our final two winners who have succeeded against the odds.