At the age of 69, Pietermaritzburg resident, Bonginkosi Mshengu is the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) oldest graduate. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Political Science on 27 May 2021. Picture: Alistair Nixon
At the age of 69, Pietermaritzburg resident, Bonginkosi Mshengu is the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) oldest graduate. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Political Science on 27 May 2021. Picture: Alistair Nixon

UKZN’s oldest autumn graduate this season, Bonginkosi Mshengu, 69, proves you’re never too old to study

By IOL Reporter Time of article published May 27, 2021

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Durban - When 69-year-old Bonginkosi Mshengu graduates with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Political Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, he will join the ranks of those who live by the adage, ’You’re never too old to learn or go back to school’.

Mshengu of Pietermaritzburg, who is a human resources management executive will be the oldest graduate at this autumn’s graduation ceremonies.

Mshengu who completed his undergraduate degree in Politics and Criminology in 1981, says he always felt his studies were incomplete and so he registered for an Honours degree at UKZN to fulfil his dream.

“I feel so happy to finally finish what I always wanted to do,” he said.

On re-entering campus life 39 years later, Mshengu said he was worried at first but adjusted quickly.

“I found the syllabus had changed quite a bit but I managed to re-orientate myself, I also related well with the younger students and made some friends I could share notes with.”

He says the Covid-19 pandemic also presented its own challenges.

“Studying again invigorated my interest to keep going and so I’m now considering registering for a Masters qualification,” he said

Mshengu says his wife and kids were initially surprised by his decision to study and supported him all the way.

He believes no one is ever too old to study and encourages people of all ages to pursue their dreams while they can.

His research focused on understanding the rising level of corruption and its impact on service delivery.

“South Africa is a relatively young democracy, still emerging from the colonial past of segregation and discrimination,” said Mshengu.

“Writers have on many occasions stated that Blacks in general and Africans in particular have had very limited access to basic services, including education, training and skills development. The challenge therefore is to stretch the limited resources to deal with backlogs. Public sector corruption siphons off financial resources desperately needed for development.”

Mshengu’s research concluded that rising levels of public sector corruption had an impact on the delivery of services and that corruption was multi-sided and sophisticated, making it difficult to detect.

“The question about why public sector corruption was rising in South Africa is answered with my work which clearly shows there are no consequences for corruption, while departments responsible for administering justice have been compromised. Corruption syndicates assisted by senior officials siphon millions of Rands out of the system. Public sector corruption has the ability to undermine governance and worsen inequalities and poverty. The impact of corruption permeates the whole fabric of society,” said Mshengu.

Mshengu, who has 35 years’ of experience in the Human Resources field working for organisations in the private and public sectors, has operated at an executive level for many years as a Human Resources generalist.

With a passion for leadership and community development, he also spent a number of years in the government service as a social worker.

He has managed human resources projects in Namibia and Ethiopia and successfully handled the project of implementing a performance management system for all staff below executive level at the eThekwini Municipality.

Mshengu is the past regional President of the Black Management Forum; a current member of the Mhlathuze Water Board; President of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business; and Managing Director of Bhekani Consulting.

IOL

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