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Cape Town - A 70-year-old woman who recently passed Grade 9, says she is ready for her next challenge – getting her matric.
On Tuesday, Belhar resident Rachel Montzinger, a former domestic worker, was presented with an an award from the Western Cape Education Department for being the oldest Adult Basic Education and Training (Abet) pupil in the province last year.
She passed the Abet level 4 exam last year, earning her the equivalent of a Grade 9.
“(At the awards ceremony) I asked myself: ‘Rachel, is this really happening? Are you not dreaming?’ It was a moment I will never forget.”
Montzinger said she started school at the age of nine.
“My granny was my role model. She couldn’t write or read but she made sure that I attended school.”
She had to drop out at the age of 16 to help supplement the income her grandmother was earning as a domestic worker.
Montzinger also started working as a domestic worker and recalled how, while scrubbing floors, she used to cry because she had wanted to complete her schooling.
She later worked in a factory and then as a tea lady. She returned to domestic work until she retired at 67.
“I then decided that I’m going to night school so I won’t be bored and can keep my brains together,” she said.
She started attending classes at the learning centre based at Perseverance Secondary in Belhar.
But in her second year at school Montzinger almost dropped out after her eldest daughter was shot dead.
“The family was torn apart. They took her in front of her three children. Then I said I’m not going back to school. Why did this have to happen?”
After a month at home, her friends, classmates and teachers persuaded her to return to class.
She admitted that at times she found the schoolwork extremely challenging. Maths was her favourite and “most hated” subject.
“I would tell the teacher that I don’t understand the work and would close my books and tell them that I was not coming back. But I always returned.”
Montzinger said she couldn’t understand why young people, “who have so many opportunities” available to them, were not completing their schooling.
“They must pack their school bags and go back.”
Montzinger said she hoped to pass matric in about three years.