After 16 years working as a security guard for various companies, Nkosingiphile Kwela from Floweni, south Durban, graduated with a degree in teaching at the University of South Africa (Unisa) on Thursday, aged 40. The delighted man who says he’s worked very hard and been mocked for studying at an old age shared his journey with The Daily Vox.
I started working as a security guard back in 2002. I come from a very disadvantaged background, that’s why it took me so long to achieve my degree. I’ve been trying to study for a long time now but money has always been an issue until I saw an advert about bursaries back in 2012. I applied although I didn’t meet some of the requirements. I had to write a tight motivational letter and luckily I was called to come for an assessment, where they had to assess how they could help me meet the requirements.
My life hasn’t been easy. Before enrolling for a degree in teaching, I had registered for law previously at the University of KwaZulu-Natal but had to drop out due to financial issues. After that I had to go from one security job to another. I was lucky in most cases because I’d even get to be on higher security ranks such as a supervisor or a manager.
After being awarded the bursary, I had to work twice as hard because if I didn’t, I stood to lose it and be back to square one. At that time I was working at a school and when the school closed for the day, I would remain behind and study, and go home later. It wasn’t easy at all but I knew what I wanted and was willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
There were people who mocked and ridiculed me but I remained determined. Others would try to discourage me by asking me what makes me think I’ll find a job after completing my degree, if the youth is sitting at home with their qualifications. Sometimes paying no attention to people means you’re a step closer to living your dreams.
Throughout this whole journey, I was very fortunate to have had an active support system from my family. My sisters and my wife were always there, even when people told them that I’d only complete my degree in my 60s, they kept on supporting me. I don’t know how to feel about the fact that I’m graduating, I just wish my mother was here to witness it. I know she would be proud of me because she knows just how much I worked hard to be here.
I wish people could understand that age is just a number and cannot determine one’s destiny. If I listened to people who kept on telling me about my age, and that I won’t make it because I’m too old, I wouldn’t be here today. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned throughout my journey is that if you’re willing to fight and work hard in life, anything is possible. It all just takes determination, hard work, and perseverance.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.