Jodie Colville gets a real kick out of proving people wrong about her. This 20-year-old has spent her life defying expectations. The daughter of a single and sickly mother, she grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in an area of Kleinvlei in the Western Cape known for gang violence. Against all odds, she did exceptionally at school and is now studying towards a BCom Accounting at Rhodes University.
After just one year of university study she made the Dean’s List, received half colours for academics and was invited to join the international Golden Key Society (for academic achievers in the top 15% of their university). Jodie has her sights set on a doctorate in accountancy and – although this is a long way off – she loves the idea of being the girl who was most-unlikely-to-be Dr Jodie.
Growing up, she and her mother lived with her grandmother, who raised Jodie. “I could never play outside like other kids because our area was too dangerous,” she explains. An introverted “awkward child”, she went to the local school where most learners didn’t have proper school uniforms and survived on the food scheme. “The teachers were great though. They taught for the sheer love of it and they encouraged me,” she says. And despite the fact that Jodie often went to sleep at night hungry, she always worked hard and was top of her class.
She was chosen as headgirl at primary school, which, she says, lost her “friends” because of jealousy. “Because of that, I became more outgoing,” she says. “I had to step out of my comfort zone to go up to people.” Her principal believed she should go to Hottentot Hollands High School in Somerset West, a top government school. “He told me I was academically strong, and I would grow there,” she recalls. But at the cost of R11 000 a year and being more than 30 minutes travel to school every day, it wasn’t going to be easy. The principal made it happen and Jodie’s granny believed it was “God’s will”.
Jodie got a partial exemption for the first couple of years, having to pay half her fees, and then a full scholarship until she matriculated. Of high school, Jodie says: “The teachers were amazing, but most of the kids were so snobby”. She was traumatised in the first year by their teasing about her background. She was also shocked to find how far ahead they were academically.
Nevertheless, by the third term she was top of the class and remained there until she finished school. While her teachers loved her, she continued to have a hard time with the learners. “But the more anyone poked fun at me or was unkind, the more it spurred me on to prove that I may be from Kleinvlei but I am capable of great things.”
Her choice of career is partly to do with her love of maths, accounting and all things financial, but also her belief that she is her family’s “ticket out”. “I chose a career that was in demand and would make a lot of money to ensure my family didn’t do without any more,” she says. “Being a chartered accountant (CA) was perfect for this and I also love doing something that challenges my brain, is about numbers and principles. I also like stability and being in control.” With seven distinctions and an average of 87% in matric, Jodie had her pick of universities. She felt Rhodes was small and personal and she hasn’t looked back, although initially she was intimidated by the workload. “When I felt overwhelmed, I reached for my file with all my certificates from Grade 8 onwards and my stepladder of achievements always inspired me and made me feel I could do anything,” she says. While she got a merit award (for her matric results) and a government student loan, this didn’t cover her books. But her stress over this was short-lived because she was awarded a Moshal Scholarship. She was so relieved not to have to worry about money anymore and be able to focus on her work. This paid off with full distinctions in her first year.
Despite her work focus, Jodie is always willing to tutor those needing help in accounting. She hasn’t any definite plans for her future but would like to emerge with a doctorate and perhaps become a CEO. She will start by becoming a CA. “I so look forward to that first pay check, which will all go to my grandmother,” says Jodie. “It feels like my journey is our journey as she is my backbone. I can’t wait to give her everything her heart desires.”