“Age is just a number – look at me completing my first degree at the age of 40. It’s a blessing," she said.
Sthembile Mngwengwe worked hard all her life and she finally got the validation she deserves. At age 40 she graduated with a degree in social science from the same university she spent 14 years in, working as a cleaner. Sthembile graduated high school in 1998 but her family did not have the funds to send her off to college although she always had a passion for learning. While she worked at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for years, she finally got a chance to study there for free in 2018. Since she was out of school for nearly 20 years, she admitted it was not easy. “Balancing work and studies gave me a lot of stress,” she told News 24. “But if you work hard and pray to God, He will help you to achieve what you want,” she added.
The single mother of a 20-year-old spent the past few years practically living at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She used to work from 7 am to 3 pm and also attended classes. “I was motivated by being on campus too, seeing students walking up and down going to their lecture theatres to attend classes made me wish to be them,” she shared. She struggled initially since it had been decades since she studied lessons and she faltered during her first year. But she was determined to not quit. Her daughter, colleagues and university friends all chipped in to help. “They didn’t care that they were younger than me. It didn’t stop them from helping me and encouraging me. In fact, they treated me as their friend,” she beamed.
While she still works as a cleaner to support herself, her family and her community couldn't be more proud of her. She's also looking forward to the next chapter in her life. “I am planning to look for a better job in admin or human resources [HR] because my degree majors are HR and Zulu,” she said, adding, “I’d also like to do a postgraduate certificate in education and become a teacher if I can’t find a job.”
The 40-year-old hopes her story will inspire others to go for their dreams no matter how old they are calling age just a number. “No matter how old you are you can still fulfill your dreams,” she said. “Look at me completing my first degree at the age of 40. It’s a blessing and I'm so proud of myself,” she added.
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Sthembile Mngwengwe