For a whole year, Regina Witbooi got up every morning at 2am to study for a few hours in peace and quiet before her three kids woke up and she had to get ready for work. When she passed the PGDA in 2022 and saw her way cleared to becoming a CA – she knew it was worth it. 

As a mathematics lecturer at West Coast College in Atlantis outside Cape Town, Regina Witbooi sees young people every day who are struggling. She sees how they feel left behind in the world, battling feelings of unworthiness, plagued by their lack of self-belief. She tells them, “I can relate to what you are going through, and if you are willing to do the work, you can succeed like I did.” 

Regina grew up in a small town in the Northern Cape. Following the death of her parents, Regina and her brother were raised by their grandparents in a household that already included nine other children. As such, it was common for her to attend school on an empty stomach.

Still, school meant a great deal to Regina and her family. Her grandparents were practically illiterate, and they impressed upon her the need for a good education. Regina paid attention and worked hard. After high school, she went to university, and studied for a Bachelor of Education which she completed cum laude through Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). While working full-time in the education industry, she decided to study on a part-time basis, although it took five years, she graduated with a Bachelor of Accounting Sciences in Financial Accounting cum laude through UNISA.

Although she could have secured a good job with her degree, Regina’s passion for accounting and lifelong dream of becoming a chartered accountant led her to the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (PGDA) at Milpark.

It was hard work. Regina failed several subjects during the various tests of the PGDA. During the third test, she failed three subjects and passed only one – management accounting, which she had failed twice before. “It was so funny because I was rejoicing then – because despite having failed three subjects, I had managed to pass management accounting! I knew I could pass the others too.”

In her fourth test, she passed three subjects and failed one. “But even as I was failing, I was looking at the incremental gains I was making. I was always failing by less each time – my marks would go up from 38% to 42% to 46%, and I would see it was almost 50%.”

Some days Regina was too tired to get up at 2am to study, but she was determined not to make a habit of missing her appointed study hours. She’d remind herself of the vision of her future self she was after – a woman with financial freedom.

To raise her spirits when she felt down, Regina would listen to inspirational songs and watch videos by motivational speakers like Dr Robin Sharma and Dr Myles Munroe. Before her final exams, she took unpaid leave and switched off her phone for almost two weeks to enable her to focus exclusively on her studies and block out external distractions. “I didn’t go onto social media, and my family and friends knew to call my husband if they wanted to reach me,” she says.

She emphasises the importance of paying attention to negative thoughts. “You have to learn to manage yourself,” she says, “You have to silence voices of doubt in your head by working harder and celebrating your improvements, even if you are still below the pass rate.” She adds, “If you don’t work on yourself mentally, your decisions will be made from a place of fear, thinking you’ll fail or that you will be judged.”

Of course, others have helped her too, and she is grateful to the many lecturers and Milpark support staff who helped her along the way. She says the Milpark experience is different on so many levels, and for her, as a social person, the interactions at the drop-in sessions and on the Yammer platform really helped. She recommends getting study buddies and reaching out to others doing the course.

Having passed the January sitting of the ITC exam, Regina has now achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a chartered accountant.

Her message is a simple but powerful one. “Failure can be part of your story of success. Don’t be afraid to fail; use it to learn and do better in future.”