Johannesburg - Think twice the next time you’re greeted by a car guard – the parking attendant could end up being your boss in the corporate world or someone you end up doing business with.
Not many car guards can proudly say they have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from a reputable institution, but Rwandan refugee Patrice Niyonteze has finally achieved his dream through MANCOSA after working as a car guard to pay for his studies.
But it was a struggle.
Niyonteze recalls that during the first semester, it was so tough he could not even afford textbooks.
“In the second semester, colleagues helped by sharing their electronic books and even paying for me when we had to have extra lessons,” he says.
Not everyone can multi-task, but there can be no difficult task than directing people in and out of parking bays while studying for an MBA qualification deemed by many at best as demanding.
“Being a parking attendant can be demoralising. One moment you can be elated when a motorist gives you R20. The next moment you can be frustrated when you are given just 20 cents whilst expecting more, judging by the expensive car.”
Staying humble and looking for a little pickings to make a big difference, Niyonteze says for him and many other parking attendants, the road is full of ups and downs.
“Some motorists treat car guards shabbily, thinking they will spend the money they are given on alcohol and drugs. However, I persevered in my humble job as I needed to complete my studies.”
In 1990, Niyonteze enrolled to study agronomy at a university in Rwanda but his studies were stopped when civil war broke out. He worked as a primary school teacher.
In 1992, he got a job as a human resources manager before becoming a secondary school teacher in 1996. In 1997, he worked as a laboratory manager until 2004 when he left Rwanda.
Soon after arriving in Cape Town from Johannesburg, he enrolled for an MBA with MANCOSA, a private higher education institution, and graduated last week in a virtual ceremony that was the joyous culmination of years of hardship and challenges.
He remembers how difficult it was for him to introduce himself to fellow students when he first enrolled for tertiary studies.
“They were all in good, professional jobs while I was a car guard. However, I reminded myself there is dignity in labour and before long, I had many friends.”
And he encourages the youth to focus on the future by studying and listening to their parents and other authoritative people.
“African youth should work hard to help the continent pull itself out of poverty and become a rich continent.”
He hopes to start a business one day, but for now he needs a job.
“All I seek is for somebody to give me a break and I will prove myself. Decent employment will afford me the chance to give my family a better life,” he says.
Nuhraan Sambo, associate director at MANCOSA, said the institution was passionate about accessibility to education.
She said meeting Patrice was a most humbling experience for her.
“I am both inspired and motivated to hear about Patrice’s journey and his determination to further his studies despite his personal circumstances.
“We meet many individuals at MANCOSA and Patrice is a reminder of why we do what we do as an academic institution,” she said.
Moral of the story: Be kind to the car guard!