Long walk to UWC pays off
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Cape Town - A determined Hanover Park man who got up at the crack of dawn and walked 17km to class at UWC every day - and then the 17km home again - because he couldn’t afford to pay for transport, will be graduating with a teaching degree next week.
On rainy days Eric van der Byl, 44, would cover himself and wrap his books in plastic but says that instead of feeling tired he always felt refreshed when he entered the university gates, keeping his end goal in sight.
He did piece work before enrolling for university.
“I had to leave school at a young age to find a job. I attended night classes to complete my matric,” he said.
Van der Byl was 39 when he enrolled for the Bachelor of Education programme at UWC and applied for a loan to pay for his studies.
“I realised that it wasn’t external obstacles standing in my way but that I was the only person holding myself back.”
He said no one in his class knew that he walked from Hanover Park every day and jokingly added that it was a way to keep fit.
“I would leave home at 4am because I don’t like to be late.”
Van der Byl, a father of three, recently started teaching at Parkfields Primary in Hanover Park.
“I believe in holistic education. It’s not just about teaching subject knowledge. It’s about opening their minds to all the possibilities that are out there for them. I see it as my main role to open their mind to the skills and talent and other potential that they possess.”
He said failure was often a catalyst to a better life.
“I failed many times in my life and it is when things go wrong when you do reflection. When everything goes right you don’t reflect.”
He said he was looking forward to his graduation ceremony next week.
“I’m so excited about it.”
UWC’s new vice-chancellor and rector, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, will confer more than 3 500 during the university’s autumn graduation, which started yesterday.
This includes 3 287 undergraduate and honours degrees, 192 masters degrees and 58 doctoral degrees.