How this South African aspiring CA suffered from his mother’s loss due to Covid-19 and still managed to clear SAICA’s ITC exam

  • Hi, there! My name is Dida Copiso, and I am a SAICA trainee accountant at BDO South Africa, on my way to becoming a CA(SA).
  • With the intention to pursue the challenging yet exciting CA(SA) journey, I relocated to Pretoria in 2020 to complete a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) at the University of South Africa (UNISA) alongside my first year of articles.
  • It was not at all smooth sailing since, around that period, COVID-19 took over the world. Fortunately, God gave me the strength and courage to clear CTA on my first attempt at UNISA in 2020.
  • In January of 2021, the unthinkable happened as my mother succumbed to the coronavirus and I lost the most important person in my life. But with the constant support from my loved ones and God’s grace, I passed the Initial Test of Competence (ITC), SAICA’s first of the two qualifying board exams, in April of 2021.
  • This is my story of how, despite the challenges, I conquered the exams and I will not stop until I am admitted as a chartered accountant.

Deciding to pursue CA (SA): A great career option

Hailing from East London, South Africa, my mother always ensured that I had access to all the basic amenities like education, shelter, clothing, and food.

Growing up, I had no idea about the profession of chartered accountancy and therefore never imagined myself walking down this challenging yet exciting journey.

But everything changed when my high school teacher, Mrs. Lumka Mpenzo sent me to a SAICA-organised camp to equip Grade 12 students for final exams as well as to make them aware of the CA (SA) designation and its intricacies.

Before the camp, I remember telling my mother about the profession and she, like myself, was unaware of the chartered accountancy profession. After numerous attempts of trying to explain to her what exactly CAs do, I ended up telling her that they work at a bank – to cut the long story short as chartered accountancy was not quite popular back in her days.

From that camp, my fascination with the CA (SA) profession evolved. And after attending the SAICA camp in July of 2016, like a great mentor, Mrs. Noluthando Menye-Petse encouraged me to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting.

The Chinese say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and 2017 was my single step towards an enriching career as I went to the University of Fort Hare (UFH) at the age of 19 to further my education.

It has been and continues to be thrilling to live a purposeful life as I decided to pursue this rewarding profession. Moreover, I am grateful to each and everyone who made this whole journey bearable and gave their constant support.

Getting funded by NSFAS and FASSET

In my CA (SA) journey, I never really had any financial constraints regarding academics.

Fortunately, the South African government funded my education through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (FASSET).

NSFAS covered the expenses for my tuition, residence, and allowances while FASSET covered the cost of extra support classes.

This was certainly not a lot, but it was enough to bring me where I am today and I am eternally grateful for their support.

Also Read

Meet this CA who went from extreme poverty to becoming a Partner at PwC, South Africa

Academic challenges due to Covid-19

Like any other student, I had my fair share of academic struggles. My fellow South African students call it “umgowo” and it is safe to say that I was no exception to umgowo, going through the most.

Although through the Lord’s mercies, I never failed a single exam, that does not mean it was smooth sailing. Instead, I should mention that, like all students, I also had to make sacrifices.

Talking about sacrifices, 2019 was my final year at UFH and I did not meet their CTA admission requirements.

Despite their offer for me to bridge to CTA in 2020 with the hope to complete it in 2021, I decided to start serving articles while completing CTA part-time through UNISA.

One of my Grade 12 teachers, who requested to remain anonymous, covered my registration fee of over R7 500 (on publication of this article, this was about US$504). On the other hand, Noluthando paid for my transport to the Gauteng Province as I had secured a SAICA training contract in Pretoria.

Little did I know that life on Earth would change so drastically as COVID-19 took over the world. By that time, I had already committed myself to long-distance learning and rigorous training articles. Hence, there was simply no way of turning back.

With all the difficulties introduced by the pandemic, God gave me the strength and courage to clear CTA on my first attempt at UNISA in 2020.

Also Read

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Losing my mother before the SAICA ITC Board exam 

In December of 2020, I invited my mother over to my place as I did not have enough leave days to travel back home and it had been so long since I had last seen her.

After a short while of living with me, she fell ill as she had contracted COVID-19. In my own hands, she panted for air and succumbed to the virus on Thursday morning, 07 January 2021.

It was a heart-wrenching moment as I sat there with her unconscious body for over 8 hours, waiting for paramedics to confirm her death and the undertakers to retrieve the body.

The experience was tormenting, but God gave me the strength until her burial 7 days later. And even though they were at a distance, the support of my family, girlfriend and friends kept me through the trauma. Without their constant check-ups, I doubt I would have coped with everything.

Coincidentally, SAICA postponed the ITC exam date to my mother’s birthday, 14 April 2021 and I am grateful the Institute did.

I further went on to also complete ITC on the first attempt in April of 2021.

The experience may have been unpleasant, but it was only through this that God could use me to testify about His grace.

Also Read

From a CA to a Fitness expert: Meet CA(SA) Rudi Witkowsky who took a bold move of redirecting his career to pursue his passion

Staying optimistic and disciplined in the face of adversity

Africans say: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Alone, I can only go fast, but where am I going on my own? I have drawn and continue to draw positivity from a wide range of people around me.

These people give me the contentment that I am living my purpose each day and that, together, we are going far.

Discipline is another quality that has helped me. They say, “Discipline fills the well when motivation runs dry”. Even when we face unforeseen storms, what needs to be done still needs to be done. I had and still have to rise above all challenges.

My source of discipline and inspiration is the people I meet every single day. All these people play a vital role in who I am and I hope to do the same for them as well.

Lastly, remember that no situation is permanent, whether good or bad. 

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