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Friday, 21 May 2021

Herding cattle taught student counsellor life skills

COUNSELLING MICRO SKILLS: Student counsellor, Baca uses the skills she learnt from growing up in the rural areas to support students at the Student Counselling Unit. COUNSELLING MICRO SKILLS: Student counsellor, Baca uses the skills she learnt from growing up in the rural areas to support students at the Student Counselling Unit.

Growing up in a village called kwaNgele near Middledrift, Eastern Cape, student counsellor, Phumla Baca, not only performed chores that are prescribed for girls only by the society but also those prescribed for boys.

Baca recalls heading down to the woods to bring up the cattle and says that those duties, which include “ukolusa” (herding the cattle) have created a strong woman that can withstand whatever comes her way.  Baca, who has been part of the Student Counselling Unit since 2008, also uses the skills she learnt from growing up in the rural areas to support students at the Unit. “Growing up in the rural areas has shaped who I am today in terms of education and respect. At CPUT I assist [students] with financial and emotional issues, individual counselling, learner support and advocacy,” she explains.

After obtaining a BA (Social Work) in 1991 at the University of the Western Cape, Baca has been a social worker for three decades in various organisations, which include the East London Society for the Blind.  She later moved to Cape Town Civilian Blind where she was responsible mostly for blind people in township areas.

 “I managed to place many children that were not schooling due to the disability in schools for the blind in the Western Cape and outside the province. I also established a workshop for blind people at Khayelitsha.”

Baca later held numerous positions at the Western Cape Social Development Department which involved an after-hours service that was dealing with child protection in Khayelitsha.  She also worked at the Department of Community Safety, assisting communities to establish Community Police Forum. “Challenges in this position was that most of the time I was not at home and it mostly was after-hours work as community meetings were held after hours and weekends. Then I was already married with two children. I had to try and find a day job as I needed to be at home for one of my children who was born with health and intellectual challenges.”

She came to CPUT and her best moments at the university is when students that have been struggling with their studies financially and emotionally graduate.

“The excitement in their faces is priceless to me.”

To her, it feels great for being part of students’ emotional growth, every year she sees new faces and different needs of students and how they grow to become young adults at the university. “When they graduate it’s an accomplishment for me. Sometimes I go beyond the call of duty, I would dish for a student from my home and take food to the student even on weekends. I think that’s what made me not to know that I’ve been at CPUT for more than a decade now.”

When she started at CPUT she never thought that she would stay that long because she regarded herself as a community person. She concedes that the biggest challenge in helping students has been working remotely and not being able to have face to face sessions with students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Baca would love to be involved in youth development issues especially when it comes to education. “I didn’t have much growing up as my late mother was a single mother with five children that were all studying.  So I have has noticed that some children want to study but there are so many obstacles that they come across.”

Written by Des