No fewer than seven UP graduates rank among the top ten achievers in the January 2020 Initial Test of Competence (ITC) of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). By accomplishing the virtually impossible, they ensured that the University of Pretoria came out tops among the 3 657 candidates from 16 South African universities accredited by SAICA.
The ICT is a standard-setting technical examination and the first of the two qualifying exams written and passed by all prospective chartered accountants (CAs).
The fact that the UP students achieved a 92% pass rate for all candidates, compared to the national pass rate of 59% in this challenging professional exam, makes their feat even more remarkable. Not only did this pass rate place UP in the first position in South Africa by a substantial margin, but the university’s African candidates also led in this area, boasting a pass rate of 86%.
The seven top UP achievers are: André van Staden (2), Adrian Rathbone (3), André Meyer (6), Christine Butters (7), Janalee Moyle (8), Sumaiya Jeewa and Suzanne Bell (joint 9).
Read more about their illustrious academic achievements and mentors as well as about the inspiring people who played an important role in shaping their lives and careers. Despite COVID-19 currently dominating our lives, they also encourage students who may not attend lectures, to stay committed. And while they do believe the impact of COVID-19 on the world and the South African economy will be severe, they are convinced that many positive lessons will also be learnt.
Following his school years at Generaal Nicolaas Smit Laerskool and Hoërskool Tuine (both Pretoria-based), André van Staden enrolled at the University of Pretoria in 2015 for a BSc Biological Science-degree. A year later, however, he decided to change direction and began studying towards an Accounting Sciences degree.
His academic achievements are impressive: In 2016 he was invited to attend a Top Achievers Evening hosted by Deloitte. In both 2017 and 2018 he was one of the Top Achievers in Taxation and in 2017, André and his group were awarded the runners-up prize for the Project Platinum event hosted by Ernst & Young. The following year, he received the PwC award for achieving the highest mark for Auditing. For his Certificate in the Theory of Accountancy (CTA), he was awarded the Deloitte prize for achieving the highest mark for Auditing, an award he is yet to receive owing to the awards ceremony being postponed. André also achieved the second highest overall mark in his CTA group.
He chose the University of Pretoria for his tertiary education “as it was situated conveniently close to home and therefore was my university of choice. As luck would have it, they also offered one of the best Accounting Sciences programmes.”
He is thankful that, throughout his life, he has received support from a number of people: family, friends, lecturers, even someone unexpected. “It goes without saying that I am eternally grateful as I would otherwise not have achieved my goals,” he stresses.
On the issue of COVID-19 and the current suspension of lectures, he offers students the following advice: “Not being able to attend lectures affords you the rare opportunity to challenge yourself and to focus on many different aspects that are important going forward in your career. You can improve your self-discipline, time management and your ability to prioritise tasks accordingly. You can take the time to embrace learning through the use of technology. Trust in yourself and never underestimate your ability to achieve your goals. You already beat the odds to get to where you are now; you will be able to do so again!”
André believes the global impact of COVID-19 serves as evidence that the only constant in life is...change. “When faced with change of such magnitude, there is nothing else you can do except embrace it. The only way to grow is to step out of your comfort zone and tackle the challenges of the current situation head-on.”
What is clearly evident is the fact that few challenges can be faced alone, he reckons. “There is something to be said for the greatness of what can be achieved when working together. Going forward, we can embrace the knowledge we have obtained and implement it to address other challenges that we may come across,” he concludes.
Adrian Rathbone also believes much good will come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Yes, COVID-19 is negatively impacting the world economy and affects millions of people, but the number of second-side sources of income for individuals and businesses and the innovative ideas that have surfaced during these lockdowns worldwide, will surely cause a large spike in employment and economic growth that will overshadow these dark times.”
With the effects of COVID-19 putting further pressure and challenges on an already difficult year, current students should keep their heads up and try and find themselves a buddy, he advises. “Someone who can pull you through when you are feeling the pressure; someone who understands what you are experiencing and who can help, and vice versa. Finally, read as much about the changes in businesses and the business world as you can, because this will definitely form part of exams and tests going forward. That little real-world insight you can bring to the table, can change a mark of 49% to 50%.”
Adrian spent his school years at Saint David’s Marist Inanda and absolutely loved his experience there. His highlight was receiving an honours blazer for full colours in leadership, academics and swimming.
“Why did I choose the University of Pretoria? Well, they offer an amazing CA and accounting programme and produce extremely well-rounded and professional CAs who are ready for an ever-changing business world,” Adrian concludes.
After matriculating at Hoërskool Randburg, where he was Dux and deputy head boy in 2015, André Meyer headed straight to the University of Pretoria.
“During the UP Open Day, I was in the room when Prof Oberholster explained in his speech why UP is the best accounting university. After seeing UP’s ITC stats, and being a logical person, there really was only one place for me to go,” André explains.
Like in high school, he excelled academically at Tuks. During every undergraduate year while studying BCom Accounting Sciences at UP, he was first in his class, as well as in his CTA year. Graduating cum laude in both his undergraduate and post-graduate degree (CTA), he was one of three students on the Dean’s List for Accounting.
Mentors who inspired him were aplenty, he recalls. “All my lecturers at UP were of an incredibly high standard, but I must single out a special lecturer: Lizette Kotze. She was our first- and third-year accounting lecturer and the impact she had on me – and I’m sure on our entire class – was most profound. She turned our accounting classes into life lessons for which I will forever be grateful!”
André is not concerned that the suspension of lectures owing to COVID-19 will derail current students. “UP has dealt with disruptions before, so you are in good hands. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own destiny, despite any obstacles life may throw at you. So ABTC and Apply Bottom To Chair!” he advises.
Ever since she can remember, Christine Butters was committed to excellence in everything she tackled, therefore it comes as no surprise that she matriculated with an average of 93% and completed her undergraduate degree with distinction and her CTA with a 72% mark.
“I knew I wanted to pursue a career in finance and that a CA qualification would stand me in good stead. As it’s no secret that UP has the best CA programme in SA, studying at its Faculty of Economic and Management was an obvious choice.”
Her interest in finance was further fuelled by her CA dad, who was also her biggest inspiration. “I loved going to work with him and watching how he interacted with people.”
Sure, accounting is a challenging degree and you have to work hard, she admits. “But keep reminding yourself of all the things you love about this course and how it will help you in the future. If you focus on understanding the basics, there is literally nothing you cannot do. For CTA students, it is a mental battle, but just keep on fighting,” she advises current students.
Amidst the COVID-19 turmoil, we are all learning a big lesson about our priorities, Butters believes. “In the end marks do not mean everything, but make sure that you are passionate about what you do and remember to include balance in your life. It is important to grow as a person and as a family member, as well as professionally,” Christine stresses.
Studying at the University of Pretoria was a dream come true, says Janalee Moyle who graduated with five distinctions from Benoni High School in 2015.
“The university invited me to join a Junior Tukkies event in Grade 11. The moment I stepped onto the main campus, I knew that it was where I wanted to study. Tuks has an incredible reputation and almost always has the best statistics for its CA programme. These factors all played a role in my decision to study at UP,” she explains.
In her first year at Tuks, she became a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. “With a lot of hard work and discipline, I completed my BCom in Accounting Sciences with a distinction. Thanks to the dedicated and caring lecturers in the CA programme at Tuks, my final year of university ended with me being 13th in my CTA class.”
She credits her parents, Janet and Darren, for everything she has achieved thus far in her life. “They have always been incredibly supportive and have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I thank them from the bottom of my heart, for without their support I wouldn’t have been able to do it. By always encouraging me and giving me the direction I needed, my accounting teacher in high school, Mrs Coulentianous, played a massive role in my decision to pursue a degree in accounting. She also deserves a special word of thanks!”
While the advent of COVID-19 has brought about very strange and uncertain times in our lives, Janalee encourages current students to persevere. “I urge everyone to never give up, you can do this! I think it’s really important to take mental breaks, such as exercise and reading a book in order to continue working hard. Don’t forget your end-goal: use this as your motivation.”
She continues: “On the one hand, COVID-19 could cause many economies to collapse, which is a very unsettling thought as it leaves us feeling very uncertain about our future, but on the other, I’m amazed that animals are returning to places that belong to them and pollution rates are lower. This is an important lesson for us all to learn, namely that we need to respect nature and the environment. Another lesson to be learnt is that people need to be more hygienic and healthy in their everyday lives.”
In these difficult times, it is important to remain positive and maintain perspective, adds Sumaiya Jeewa.
“Throughout history there are examples of tragic events. History shows that human beings unite. Innovation and invention increase. Solutions are found and society advances. We will overcome this crisis,” she points out.
Academically 2015, in particular, was an exceptional year for Sumaiya. Not only did she achieve the position of overall top matriculant when she graduated from the Middelburg Institute of Leaning, she placed first in the 2015 SAICA National Accounting Olympiad and was a recipient of the Vice Chancellor Merit Bursary Award from the University of Pretoria.
Like her peers, she has the highest regard for the University of Pretoria. “The fact that it has an excellent academic reputation prompted me to consider UP as my first choice for tertiary education.”
She is most grateful for her family’s support and guidance and every teacher and lecturer who has played a role in her education. “My motivation to succeed stems from my grandfather’s influence in my life. He is an outstanding progressive individual who always encouraged me to transcend my limits. I was inspired to pursue a career in academics by an accounting lecturer who I hold in high esteem and consider as my role model and mentor,” she stresses.
Post COVID-19, a global recession is likely, she believes. “This means that measures to better manage the threat of possible world pandemics in future will have to be taken by world leaders. Most likely it will also result in greater appreciation for healthcare workers and the medical profession, as well as for our planet,” Sumaiya concludes.
For many years, the University of Pretoria was an integral part of Suzanne Bell’s family: not only was her grandfather, Aad Zevenbergen, a professor at the university, the majority of her family members – aunts, uncles, cousins – also went to Tuks. She merely continued the tradition, excelling on many fronts:
She attended Redhill School where she was head girl and scored nine distinctions, placing her on the outstanding achievement list. She then went on to study at UP, obtaining both her undergrad and postgrad degrees with distinction, ending fifth in her final year. She became a member of Golden Key in her first year, also receiving a chapter award. With a passion for education, she was a tutor for first-year Financial Management in her third year and went on to become an academic trainee at UP in the Department of Financial Management during her first year of articles.
She thoroughly enjoyed her three years at Magrietjie residence, where, as a member of the Magrietjie House Committee in her third year, she was First Year Guardian. “Two of my cousins were in Magrietjie before me, so I was keen to stay there. UP was one of two universities that offered the residence and student life that I was looking for. It was far enough away from home to be independent, but close enough to be able to see my family.”
In every phase of her life’s journey, she looked, and found, inspiration: “From family and friends, school, UP lecturers, academic trainees, her Magrietjie mentor and Deloitte, definitely,” she enthuses.
Like the other ITC achievers, she encourages current students to remain committed to their studies. “Where there’s a will there’s a way. Do everything in your power to stay on top of your studies, use the resources at your disposal and work consistently. But also, don’t be too hard on yourself – you’re living through a pandemic!”
“Indeed, COVID-19 is an international disaster and many lives will be lost. Coinciding with South Africa’s downgrading to junk status, it will also have a disastrous effect on the economy, and many small businesses will have to close shop. On the brighter side, it is great to see South Africa coming together as a nation and working toward a common purpose,” she concludes.