Managing Director: SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology)

Over the past 11 years, Zerina Royeppen has held various top-level positions at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology), and has made her mark as a thought-leader for women in education.  With a mantra, derived from a Ghanaian Fanti proverb, Zerina believes that when you ‘teach a woman, you teach a nation’.  She advocates that entrepreneurship and leadership skills should be part of every woman’s education, and should be easily accessible for all.  

As SACAP’s Managing Director since 2015, Zerina promotes flexible studies that properly consider women’s multiple roles and responsibilities. She encourages women to read extensively on broad subject matters to increase diversity of thinking; pointing out that highly educated is not the same as being well-read. What gets Zerina out of bed in the morning is creating opportunities for women to learn, grow and develop, and importantly, to lead.  Give Zerina one wish to change the world and she will appoint women leaders in key countries, including, of course, South Africa.

This resolute belief in both the aptitude and benevolence of women as leaders has deep roots in Zerina’s personal life.  Growing up, both her entrepreneurial mother and maternal aunt were key influences, demonstrating what happens when women step up; not to gain power over anyone, but to, day by day, survive and help their children thrive.  Around the age of three, Zerina’s family had to sell their home in Woodstock due to the Group Areas Act back in the seventies and moved to the Indian settlement of Cravenby Estate.  She says: “My childhood experiences that predominantly shaped my career in social work were about experiencing first-hand the impact of apartheid on education and on society. It made me determined to study a profession that would allow me an opportunity to work alongside communities and to empower them.”

After graduating from UCT with a 4-year, BSocSciSW (Social Work) degree majoring in social work and psychology, Zerina graduated in 1992 and went to work at Cape Town Child Welfare.

Her passion for education was ignited in her roles as supervisor and manager, which at this time included the part-time supervising of UCT social work students and volunteering to train student social auxiliary workers.  

Zerina’s journey at SACAP started in 2008 when she was appointed as a manager of the Work Integrated Learning and distance education programme. Her rise in leadership was swift and steady; in 2011, she became manager of the Cape Town campus, and two years later the institutional principal.   Immersed in SACAP’s unique educational philosophy, and working closely in the leadership team with CEO, Lance Katz and SACAP Dean, Dr Ashley Smyth; Zerina’s vision of equity in education came sharply into shape.  She says: “Our SACAP purpose and working with like-minded, passionate people excites me.  Our phenomenal work environment and culture, which I have helped shape continues to inspire me. I feel blessed with a leadership position, and relish influencing and determining how we do business and how we create opportunities for young South Africans to work with purpose and positively impact on our society.”

When it comes to women’s education and leadership in particular, Zerina has faith in inherent feminine strengths. “We should not be afraid to lead as a woman, with heart and compassion,” she says.  “We should stick to our moral compass, and become values-based and purposeful leaders.  I think it is vital to develop strong emotional intelligence, and to embrace that leadership is not about control, but about bringing others alongside of us to work towards solutions that benefit our society and country as a whole.”

Zerina has been married to a wonderful man for the last 24 years, and they have two sons of 21 and 17 years of age. She enjoys reading business, leadership and management books; loves hiking and walking; and describes herself as ‘a total sucker’ for a good romance movie or novel. She values connecting with girlfriends on a regular basis and volunteers in her community. In her lifetime, she plans to go on Hadj, play in snow, experience a boat cruise and share her personal story.

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