Pearl Lebusho may have left university twice yet she devotes her time to ensuring girls stay in school. Coming from a rural community, Pearl knows first hand how schools can leave girls poorly informed on what to expect at university.
Driven by her passion to help young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, Pearl started the Miss Free State Schools Pageant. Miss FS Schools Pageant is a learning and social reformation programme that inspires and encourages young girls in South Africa’s Free State province through beauty pageants. This builds a community of models and supports girls who see modelling as a career.
When Pearl isn’t busy with the pageant, she helps girls attend the Matric dance (aka prom night) by providing dresses. She speaks candidly about dropping out from university and growing her social ventures.
You have mentioned that you don’t have a university degree but have pushed others to getting theirs. Tell us about it
I dropped out of university twice. The first time was in 2003. I enrolled for a qualification in Information Technology (B. Com IT ) at the University of the Free State. I was accepted. However, I had no clue of what that course entailed as I was from a previously disadvantaged school where we did not have career guidance or development.
The qualification was not what I expected. To start with, I had no background of accounting and computer from school. I failed my major course and NSFAS took their loan back. My mother could not afford my fees as she was going through a divorce then.
What did you do next?
I had to be enrolled to a college the next year. My granny had to pay for my studies out of her little pension money. I had only one pair of jeans to wear to college and that motivated me to work extra hard. That year, I got the best student of the year award.
I further completed my certificate in web design in 2004 and NQF Level 5 system support engineer in 2007, both in IT. I was forced to work and study to make it possible. My granny encouraged me to finish the qualification even though I was no longer interested. Then bang, it was the best idea because it got me a job.
But you were not happy with your 9-5, why was this so?
It was not enough that I was in a job. I was not happy, not only because I did not enjoy the work but because my heart was crying for the young people who were coming from the same background as mine. I was scared that they would make the same mistake I made.
In 2008, I started my school visits where I would speak to Matric students in schools and send them bursary applications. That was not enough as it was not resolving the core of the problem —why young people find themselves in wrong or unfulfilling careers. I continued to assist others with career advice but as I was not qualified to do so, I knew I had to get trained.My heart was crying for the young people who were coming from the same background as mine Click To Tweet
Now, I am an accredited career guidance practitioner and have assisted thousands of students through my foundation, It’s Possible. I am now looking into having a Degree and PhD in Psychology and be a registered with the Council of Psychologists in SA.
What has held you back from returning to university?
First, time management. In 2010 for the second time, I enrolled at the University of the Free State and I was accepted in the faculty of Humanities to study a degree in Psychology.
I was also a newly-wed wife and a new mother of a 1 year old boy. With little money to afford a helper and stuck in a demanding job, I dropped out again. This time because I did not calculate my risks and plan my time.
I made a loan to finance my studies and all that cash was flushed in the toilet when I did not finish my studies again. However, I managed to finish and obtain the accreditation certificate in career development.
Another issue is finances. I have now three children that I need to pay school fees for and three younger siblings who are at university that I am also expected to support. I am currently trusting God for my breakthrough so that next year, I can have financial assistance to fund my studies.
The reason why I say I do not have a degree and do not mention my other college qualification, is because I want to see myself one day with my degree in Psychology. I want to be registered as a professional councillor so that I can fully advice young people about their careers and on the importance of choosing the right qualification.
Also, I want to own a walk-in centre where kids will have access to such information. I see myself referred to as Dr. Lebusho in the near future.The reason why I say I do not have a degree, is because I want to get my degree in Psychology one day Click To Tweet
Tell us about the Matric dance, how do you ensure the project goes smoothly? Where do you collect dresses from?
The Matric dance is a project that I started in my Matric year. I had a friend who was a top performer in our class. As she was from a disadvantaged family, she could not afford to attend the Matric dance.
She did not have clothes to attend the dance with so I approached her and asked if she would not mind me lending her my evening dress. She agreed and I did exactly that, we bought her a cream relaxer and her sister did her hair. I also lent her my Sunday shoes. She was happy and we both attended our farewell.
In 2005, I started the project again with the help of a few ladies. As the numbers increased, I started collecting dresses from friends, colleagues and families and started having criteria for the students.
The criteria I use now is, I go to school and ask for top performers who are from disadvantaged families and I assist them with the dresses and other higher education related needs such as registration fees, application to higher education and books.
How will you implement your plan of expanding your project to employ fashion designers?
The reason I started Matric couture is to assist more girls and boys. The idea behind this is to have permanent staff, thus creating employment. I want to employ young upcoming designers with the aim to give them a platform to be known and gain experience.
I also want to ensure the girls have access to the latest trends so that they do not feel like charity cases. One of the challenge with providing dresses for students is that we need to alter and recreate the dresses to meet the girl’s needs.Matric couture assists young South Africans with dresses and higher education related needs Click To Tweet
Matric couture will also hire out dresses to people who can afford them at a reasonable price. The money will go towards paying the designers and dry cleaning the dresses. However, the core reason for scaling up is to increase our budget for application and registration fees, books and other university related matters.
We also looking into buying back the dresses from the girls after their Matric dance. We do not want to give them hard cash but instead pay for their school-related items.
What drives you to work with rural and urban youth?
I spent my primary school life in a rural community and what I have observed is, young people in rural areas do not have access to information. In addition to this, they think low of themselves because of their background.
I am now living in a city, or urban area, where kids have access to too much information. This sometimes become a disadvantage to them. We face challenges with the high rate of drug abuse and alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, gangsters and school drop-outs.
Working with young people from these background gives me an opportunity to learn and grow as an individual and groom the future generation towards the same vision.
What other projects do you see yourself working on in the future?
I see myself working on moral regeneration and career development programmes.
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