DURBAN - Nearing the end of a long and difficult journey, a 23-year-old University of KwaZulu-Natal student who was raised by his grandmother on a street vendor’s income could not contain his emotions as he burst into tears on stage during graduation.
Ngobese was conferred with a Bachelor of Arts degree at a ceremony held at UKZN’s Westville Campus on Friday. He is currently doing his honours degree.
Ngobese said his journey had been “long and difficult”.
He was raised by his maternal grandmother in Bhukhanana, a rural area outside Empangeni.
“My grandmother was a street vendor and the sole breadwinner in the house where there were over 10 children,” he said.
Due to ill health, Ngobese’s grandmother was unable to attend the ceremony.
“It was going to be difficult for her because she is not well and she would have had to take about three taxis to get here. But my mother and my aunt were present at the graduation.”
While others bought new clothing for the occasion, Ngobese did not let the fact that he did not have the financial means to do so stop him from being conferred with his degree.
“I could not afford to buy a suit but I just had to be there at graduation,” he said.
Images of an emotional Ngobese and the story of his journey were posted on the university’s Facebook page and went viral.
“I am overwhelmed by the number of calls I have been getting so much so that I cannot respond to all of them. People have been phoning to wish me well while some have even pledged donations. I am grateful to all the people showing me love,” he said.
The day after his graduation, UKZN said Ngobese had been offered a job.
According to the university, Durban businessman, Calvin Mathibeli was so moved by Ngobese’s story that he decided to create a permanent position for the graduate.
Mathibeli, 34, owns the Calvin and Family Group which has interests in agriculture and minerals. The group has 12 subsidiaries with offices in seven provinces and a presence in Namibia and Lesotho.
“I was so moved by his story because of his resilience but also because of the similarities that we have in terms of background. I spoke to him yesterday (Friday) and I was very moved by his story,” he said.
Mathibeli was also raised by his grandmother in a big family.
“Our resilience has made us who we are. I want to ensure that Ngobese is able to earn a living so that he can also contribute to his family. All I need from him is to respect the job,” he said.
The university said Mathibeli and Ngobese met on Saturday afternoon to conclude the offer.
“I had other vacancies but I thought let me create one, especially for Dumisani. He will be starting work on Monday, it will be a good position and a permanent one. He said he is studying online and we will also be paying for his studies,” said Mathibeli.
UKZN said the businessman has also offered to pay for Ngobese’s honours degree studies.
Mathibeli has also offered to take Ngobese under his wing and groom him in business if he is interested in moving in that direction.
“Of course, business is not for everyone. What we will do is to find out what his dreams are and we will complement them,” he said.