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Neeri Stroebel breaks the cycle of poverty

Written by Allison Cooper

Women’s Month pays tribute to South African women who have fought for their rights, including education. One of these inspirational women, Neeri Stroebel (43), experienced poverty growing up and vowed to change the course of her life.Neeri Stroebel has overcome many obstacles to achieve her dream of getting an education.

She recently obtained a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Management from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Stroebel recalls that her mother could neither read nor write.

“I remember her telling me that she so wished to read and write, but was denied the chance due to the culture and era she grew up in. This forced me to look at education differently,” Stroebel explains.

“I realised I had to educate myself if I was going to end the cycle of poverty,” she adds.

A hard life

Life was hard for the Stroebel family. “There were periods when we had no electricity. One stretch lasted for two years. My mother was the strength that held us together. She made sure we had a warm meal and a bed.”

Through hard work, Stroebel passed matric with exemption. Her next challenge was to convince her mother to allow her to study further.

“I knew we had no money for further education© The only option was to leave KwaZulu-Natal for Johannesburg and live with my brother until I could find a job. I left with R20 for lunch and a bag of clothes,” she says.

Stroebel arrived in Johannesburg in 1996 and gave herself three months to find a job.

“I was a small-town girl, armed with a Johannesburg map and hungry for a job. I got one two months later, but was retrenched.

“I found another job by being gutsy. I told my interviewer I would work for free for five days. If I didn’t meet expectations, I would leave. I got the job,” says Stroebel.

Her mother passed away a year before Stroebel, then 19, received a bursary and enrolled at UNISA in 1998.

Despite her determination, she faced many challenges and abandoned her studies in 2007. “I was juggling too many tasks.”

During a job interview, she was asked why she had not completed her degree.

“This reignited the flame© I started studying again in 2017 and muscled my way through, with two children and work and family commitments.

“In achieving my degree, I also achieved my mother’s goal,” says Stroebel, who now aims to obtain a counselling and communication qualification.