Widowed mom fulfils goal to be a teacher

2013-04-12 12:25
Bernie Wiles, who fulfilled a lifelong dream and graduated as a teacher. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)

Bernie Wiles, who fulfilled a lifelong dream and graduated as a teacher. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)

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Durban - It was a proud and emotional moment for a 48-year-old widow and mother of three who graduated as a teacher at Durban University of Technology on Thursday.

Benedict Wiles, of Cleland, who is affectionately known as Bernie, is living testimony that you’re never too old to graduate.

In 2008, she resigned from her job as manager at a Clicks store to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

She had worked for the company for 18 years.

“I remember the first time I walked into a lecture hall. The young students who were chattering were all saying ‘shh …’ because they thought I was a lecturer,” Wiles laughed.


Having an ordinary matric certificate was not enough for this achiever.

She had always dreamt of being a teacher and in 2006 she rewrote her matric exams because she wanted a university entrance pass.

“I had been working and had children and I used to think - not yet. But when my baby was in Grade 10, I said, ‘This is my time. I’ve raised everybody and I’ve done my part in my home’.”

She told her late husband, Patrick, and the children that she was thinking of going back to school.

“I spoke to my husband and I asked him if I could leave work and resign completely, and he said ‘sure’.”

She could not believe her husband’s response. “At first I thought he didn’t get it right.”

She was concerned about how the family would survive on one salary.

Wiles’s journey has not been easy. In the first two years at university she battled with accounting.

“But I was so determined. I took extra lessons and on Saturdays I was at varsity too.”


In 2011, her husband fell ill and was diagnosed with cancer and she had to juggle exams and chemotherapy visits.

Last year, her fourth year of study, she lost her husband to the disease.

“Patrick used to brag that I was studying,” she said.

“The day before my graduation, on Wednesday, I was very emotional because we had planned my graduation together. But I know he was looking down on me.”

Wiles’s dedication has also motivated her children.

Now she tells everyone who cares to listen that they can do it too and it is never too late.

Wiles also bagged several distinctions.

She is waiting for a placement by the department of education and says she can’t wait to start teaching.

Read more on:    durban  |  education  |  good news

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