After failing her postgraduate diploma in accounting (PGDA) at a traditional university, Ndivhuwo Nethononda was ready to give up on her dream of becoming a chartered accountant (CA). Then, years later, she tried again, with the help of Milpark Education.

Ndivhuwo Nethononda, 32, knows how hard it is for students to accept that their academic career is a work in progress. Bad test results and poor academic performance can create a spiral of mental defeat that is difficult to regain control of. Ndivhuwo’s lowest point was in 2014, when she failed out of her postgraduate diploma in accounting (PGDA) at a traditional university.

“I remember failing the PGDA and how much of a blow that was. I thought it was a cruel course and it affected me terribly,” says Ndivhuwo. As a result, she decided to take a break from academics and instead pursue Christian missionary work, helping uplift communities and focusing on her own spiritual growth. After two-and-a-half years, she decided to focus on her professional career.

Once again open to working in accounting, Ndivhuwo took positions as an accountant and a finance controller in the corporate sector. She enjoyed working with numbers, but she couldn’t help noticing how CAs (Chartered Accountants) had in most cases first preference when it came to managerial roles in the workplace. “I would see new people join the office and if they were already qualified CAs, they would immediately work in positions above me – despite being younger and not having the same experience with the business and systems. I saw that without that professional designation your career growth takes longer.”

This made her think again of her own academic journey. “It kept haunting me – it just wouldn’t go away.” At this point, she felt mentally strong enough to again try studying for her PGDA and in 2021 she registered with Milpark Education.

Ndivhuwo was stunned by their alternative way of studying that gave students so much more support. “I loved the programme as a student – the way the content is communicated and how Milpark makes you feel like you are more than just a student number.” Being part of an interconnected student community helped to keep her motivated and inspired her to keep going. As she progressed in the year the course work was demanding, however, she found herself struggling again.

It brought up old feelings of doubt and fear and she began to feel overwhelmed and almost paralysed by the thought that she would not be able to pass. Her confidence was low as she grappled mostly with Financial Reporting as this was the subject she failed in undergrad and postgrad during her first attempt. She finally contacted a psychologist from Milpark. Once they started talking about the past, Ndivhuwo saw that her disappointment in her previous academic experience ran deeper than she had realised, and it was blocking her attempts to achieve academic success in the present. Funny thing is, this was the subject she ended up enjoying the most and doing well in.

She worked hard to cultivate the right mindset and gain the psychological tools to deal with negative thoughts and feelings in her Bridging to CTA year. By the time her final exams came around, Ndivhuwo was able to better manage the pressure and this mindset shift helped her achieve all the success she once dreamed about. Since then, she has passed her Bridging to PGDA, PGDA and most recently the SAICA ITC exam in January 2023.The experience was so profound that when she discovered she could stay on at Milpark Education and do part of her articles requirement for the CA(SA) qualification by working as an Academic Trainee on the SAICA training programme, she seized the opportunity.

“I have a passion for education and helping others,” says Ndivhuwo, whose Christian beliefs have given her a service-driven outlook. If she could tell students one thing, it would be to avoid the trap of negative thoughts. “Try to look at it this way,” she says. “There is beauty in failing. It is hard to see sometimes, but just like gold is found in the mines – probably one of the messiest places on earth – so you can achieve something beautiful if you dig deep in yourself.”