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From Gelvandale to Cambridge University


Despite financial challenges in her journey to obtain a tertiary education, a Gqeberha woman has persisted all the way to the top of the academic food chain — from Gelvandale to Cambridge University.

Master of law graduate now works on projects to create jobs and alleviate poverty
Inge Schneider, 32, was born and raised in Gelvandale, attended St Thomas High School and now works as a lawyer with investment projects that aim to create jobs and alleviate poverty in Africa.
She is qualified to practice law as an attorney in SA and as a solicitor in England.
Schneider said being raised in a previously disadvantaged area she had realised that many people were still being left behind, so studying law had been a natural selection for her as she aimed to use it as a tool to empower herself and others.
“For as long as I can remember, I have been an advocate for fighting for what is right and true, and this pursuit of fairness and justice made studying law a natural selection for me,” Schneider said.
In 2010, she went on to complete an LLB degree (cum laude) at Nelson Mandela University and then went on to work at a law firm in Cape Town.
A few years later she was awarded a full Chevening scholarship to study LLM (Master of Law) in International Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated in 2014.
“My experience there was magical and something I never in a million years thought I would have had the opportunity to experience.
“I learnt so much about international law during my time there and had the privilege of engaging with excellent teachers and peers from all walks of life.”
She is now studying towards an MBA degree through the Quantic School of Business and Technology and expects to graduate in the next year.
She said one of the biggest hurdles along the way had been financial challenges because tertiary education was simply not affordable for those who did not have the money.
Raised by a single mother, Schneider decided to work as a waitress to contribute towards her fees, textbooks and taxi fare.
“When you haven’t been educated at a “model C school” and haven’t grown up with trust funds, ample resources and connections, it can be too easy to feel like you don’t belong,” she said.
“It can be tough at times and overwhelming with thoughts about whether one is good enough, educated enough or intelligent enough.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised the importance of trusting myself, keeping self-talk positive and daily reminders that I do belong in these spaces as much as everyone else,” Schneider said.
She now works as an inhouse lawyer at CDC Group in London which uses UK taxpayer money to make investments in projects in Africa and South Asia.
“My work is exciting as I’ve found an area of law where I can use my legal qualifications to help make some difference in the world, and I’ve found this to be particularly fulfilling when working on investments in Africa where foreign investment is crucial.” Her biggest motivator is her mother, Sherylin, 63, who while working as a full-time primary schoolteacher, studied for eight years to get herself a degree, while taking care of four children on her own.
“These real-life lessons of hard work, drive and resilience have stuck with me and have been the biggest motivator in my life. She is an extraordinary example of a strong, independent woman who did not let her circumstances dictate her future and did not allow challenges life threw at her to get her down.”
She said her mother’s biggest lesson to her and her siblings was that education was the key to liberation.
“She taught us that if you educate yourself, you can become independent and look after yourself. In that way, I was motivated to push myself academically so that I could help myself and others.
“She also taught me how important it is to balance work and play, and to allow myself to make mistakes because nobody is perfect.”
Though she may not have a concrete plan in place for the future, she intends at some stage to move back to SA to make a lasting difference in communities that have been historically disadvantaged and forgotten along the way.
“I would love to use my legal background, my experience abroad and my love for this country to make a tangible difference and to drive positive change, whether this is in the political or legal space,” she said.
Published by The Herald (South Africa)
23 Mar 2021
Raahil Sain sainr@theherald.co.za


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