Meet Rukaya Smith, the dedicated 35-year-old mother to daughters Sarah, 11, and Ranah, 8. She’s also a SACAP student, a thyroid cancer survivor and, happily, engaged to be married.
Rukaya’s fascination with psychology spans 15 years. Her story is one of heart ache, hard work, love, and a great deal of passion. She is currently in the second year of her Bachelor of Applied Social Science (BAppSocSci) Degree at SACAP. We caught up with Rukaya and discovered she’s about to embark on a brand-new, exciting chapter.
“I received a bursary to study at the University of the Western Cape,” Rukaya tells us. Unfortunately, her Bachelor of Arts Degree (majoring in psychology) was truncated. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to stop studying,” she explains.
“I then joined the corporate world and have been there ever since. However, my studies in psychology ignited a fire deep within me. Not a day has passed when the idea of becoming a clinical psychologist hasn’t been on my mind,” she says.
“I got married, had two kids, and divorced eight years later. Although my dream has seemed farfetched at times, it’s remained alive. I have not given up hope!” she exclaims.
Cancer raised its unkind head in Rukaya’s life soon thereafter. “I had a few operations, and in the process, I lost my voice,” she says. What followed was a sinking depression that gripped Rukaya so tightly she voluntarily admitted herself into a wellness centre.
“The psychologists at the clinic made such a positive impact,” she says. They rekindled my passion for psychology. I just knew it was my purpose to help people in the same way, too,” she says.
In time, Rukaya’s depression lifted. Her voice also improved. However, not before her throat became incredibly painful. “It was raw, as though it had a pipe in it,” she recalls. “My fiancée insisted on taking me to hospital, but I refused. I told him God was operating and would give me back my voice.”
Miraculously, Rukaya’s voice did return. “One day as I was praying, my voice became louder and louder – it had a sound to it again! I knew God gave me my voice back for a reason and has great plans for me.”
“My fiancée encouraged me to find a campus and apply for a degree. He wants me to become the psychologist I believe I am meant to be,” she continues. “As a single mom with financial responsibilities, I couldn’t afford to give up my day job to study, though. Fortunately, I came across SACAP’s Online Campus. I applied and was accepted into the BAppSocSci degree as a full-time student. It was exhilarating! I loved and still love every minute of my studies.”
“I chose to major in counselling and psychology for several reasons,” says Rukaya. One, personal interest – I’m naturally curious; learning about how the human brain functions, and the way people think, feel, and behave fascinates me. Two, my desire to help others – working in counselling and psychology enables me to make a difference in people’s lives. Three, previous experience – my personal encounter with mental health issues helps me to empathize with others. Four, career opportunities – counselling and psychology is a growing field that continues to expand, I would like to be a part of this shift.”
Rukaya’s favourite course components? “Discovering that as I am learning skills to improve the lives of others, I am also improving my own,” she enthuses. “My daughters have benefited greatly from my personal growth, which has helped me so much, too.”
“Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share my passion for this sector is another aspect that makes my heart sing,” she adds.
Rukaya has plenty of good things to say about SACAP. “I would 100% recommend SACAP. It has a long-standing reputation for excellence in academics, research, and innovation, and is recognized as a top-ranked institution.”
“SACAP has highly qualified and experienced faculty members who are experts in their respective fields. They provide excellent guidance and mentorship to their students,” she continues. “The college offers a wide range of programmes and courses, tailored to meet the diverse needs and interests of students. It values and promotes diversity and inclusivity and provides a welcoming and supportive environment for learners from all backgrounds and cultures.”
“Furthermore, SACAP provides numerous opportunities for students to connect with industry leaders and other professionals. As well as outreach programmes that help them build their networks and advance their careers,” she says.
With so much passion for her studies and the institution that facilitates them, it seems fitting that Rukaya is Chairperson of SACAP’s Online SRC 2023. “My role is to strategically guide the SRC and assist in the formulation of a vision for the year,” she explains. “We implement strategies that aim to foster academic and personal growth and excellence.”
Rukaya has a strategic vision for her own future, too. Once I have completed my undergraduate degree, I plan to apply for the BPsych Equivalent at SACAP’s Cape Town Campus. My hope thereafter is to register with the HPCSA. I’d like to practise as a registered counsellor while I apply for and complete a master’s programme.”
“I believe that pursuing a higher degree will provide me with a deeper understanding and specialised knowledge in a field that I am extremely passionate about,” Rukaya adds. “I know this will be a challenge, but it’s one that I welcome as it will help me grow as an individual.”
“Also, with a master’s and PhD, I will have the potential to make significant contributions to the field of psychology. I will have an even greater impact on society and the industry as a whole,” she concludes.
Rukaya’s passion for psychology has been a slow burning flame that she has chosen not to ignore. That small spark that intrigued her when she was a fresh-out-of-school student is now a blaze that lights the path to her purpose.
What’s your life story? Is psychology a key character? Perhaps you’d like it to become a significant aspect? Consider taking a psychology course at SACAP. Despite many obstacles Rukaya is managing to study online alongside her day job and she’s thriving. You can, too.
SACAP has a wide range of life-changing courses, check them out here.