‘I failed my Boards five times, but I never gave up’ – Vusi Nkabini
Vusi Nkabini’s lifelong dream was to become a CA – and after a long and bumpy journey, he finally achieved his goal at the age of 52. Nkabini failed his Board examinations five times and missed them twice, but he never gave up, making the realisation of his ambition “dizzying” and even more fulfilling.
Nkabini grew up in the township of Mhluzi near Middelburg in Mpumalanga and excelled academically from an early age, despite having to complete his homework by candlelight and walk 24 kilometres to high school and back every day.
He was consistently top of his class throughout his school years and showed a particular affinity with numbers. However, a lack of funds meant he had to put his university plans on the backburner and join the world of work instead. As a result he became a laboratory technician in Witbank. It was here that his passion for commerce was really fuelled, as he would pore over study guides of a friend enrolled at Unisa during slow shifts. He became a part-time correspondence student at Unisa and achieved distinctions in first-year accounting and economics and second-year business economics and commercial law.
This gave him the confidence to approach the management of his employer, SA Cyanamid, for assistance, who duly awarded him a scholarship. Nkabini attended Rhodes between 1986 and 1989, graduating with a BCom and Certificate in Theory of Accounting (CTA). He then moved to Johannesburg to complete his articles at KPMG. This was a major learning curve for him as all he had known up to then was the laboratory and lecture theatre.
He sat for the Board exam for the first time in 1990 - and failed. He tried again another four times between 1990 and 1994, but failed each attempt. He once again placed his CA (SA) dream on hold until 2007, when he enrolled for his CTA for the second time as the certificate had expired.
A severe case of chickenpox struck Nkabini down for the duration of the Board exams in 2008, meaning he missed the tests. He tried again the following year, but for the second time was struck by bad luck when the taxi he was travelling to the exam in broke down. In spite of running the last five kilometres he arrived over an hour late for the exam. A panic attack made it impossible for him to get past the first question, so he walked out of the venue.
The thought of failure was anathema to Nkabini, and he knew he couldn’t let it get the better of him. “The board exam was the only thing I had ever failed at in my life and I decided that I was no longer going to allow it to defeat me. It was time to level the playing field,” he explained. In 2012, he passed Part 1 of the Qualifying Exam (QE1) and the supplementary exam for Accounting Professional Training (APT), but failed the Professional Practice Exam (PPE).
Just when he was on the verge of giving up, SAICA’s Thuthuka Bursary Fund approached him with the offer of a bursary to repeat his courses and receive full academic support. It proved to be the lucky charm and the elusive CA (SA) title was finally his after all the years of hardship and failure. His advice to student: “There are no shortcuts and you have to learn to manage all the different responsibilities in your life to get through.”
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