58-year-old overcomes adversity and graduates

by Angeline Marokoane

A need to survive drove North-West University (NWU) alumnus Nombulelo Yoba’s constant pursuit of knowledge. Her perseverance paid off, and the 58-year-old proudly stood out from her young peers as she took the stage to receive her BEd degree in senior phase and further education and training teaching with mathematics for education.

This was during a recent graduation ceremony at the Kompas Church in Vanderbiljpark. 

Nombulelo’s road to her graduation was not easy, and she had to face various stumbling blocks along the way.

"My whole world changed in 1995, when my two brothers who raised me, were killed in a violent gang-related incident," she recalls.

“I had no formal work experience and the only venture that came to mind was operating a mobile public telephone service to take care of myself and seven other family members. It was something, but I hardly made enough to get by,” she adds. Nombulelo, who at the time was pursuing pharmaceutical studies, had to drop out.

To achieve a better life for herself and her family, she knew she needed to keep studying. She optimistically enrolled towards a diploma in transport management at the University of Johannesburg with a mere R 3 500 and no additional funds.

Her performance in her first year earned her a bursary, and she received her diploma in 2010. She soon realised she was not passionate about pursuing this career path, so she sought employment. Sadly, like so many South Africans, she struggled to find work.

This constant struggle led her to pursue her passion for mathematics. "I love mathematics and wanted to master it," she adds.

This led her to enrol at for her BEd degree at the NWU’s Vanderbiljpark Campus in 2020.

However, Nombulelo's struggles did not end there. Since she lacked the necessary tools like a laptop and smartphone, it was hard for her to keep up with her studies, and she often had to borrow these from her classmates to complete her assignments.

This was a frustrating time for her, which the covid-19-pandemic made worse.

A lack of income during this time compounded the situation even further, but she is grateful to the university for its assistance in providing her with food parcels. Nombulelo also expressed her sincere gratitude to her lecturers.

“I am grateful to Mandlenkosi Sibiya, Fatima De Breu, Dr Irene Muller and Eunice Pretorius, among others, who supported me throughout this time, affording me the time to complete my outstanding assignments,” she says.

“Even though my husband and son sometimes felt that I was neglecting them, they supported me in the long run. They are very proud of me, and my son intends to study mechatronics to keep up with the trend!”

Nombulelo, whose name in isiXhosa means “gratitude”, says that she is determined to pursue her honours degree as soon as her financial situation improves. Her next step is to secure employment. “My ultimate dream is to become a lecturer in mathematics,” she shares.


Nombulelo Yabo during her recent graduation at the Kompas Church in Vanderbiljpark. 

Submitted on Tue, 06/21/2022 - 12:18