Quiet ‘Mthosh’ to be laid to rest

2016-12-08 06:01
Headmaster Zola Phahlane and ex colleague Ernest Henda hold candles during the memorial service of the late ‘Mthosh’ Ngculu PHOTO: tarzan mbita

Headmaster Zola Phahlane and ex colleague Ernest Henda hold candles during the memorial service of the late ‘Mthosh’ Ngculu PHOTO: tarzan mbita

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Zalisile Ngculu, who has died at the age of 60 years, was a Biology teacher at I.D. Mkhize Secondary-wich later morphed into a High School- from 1977 until his early retirement in 2001 at the age of 45 years.

A man of a quiet demeanour-but who upheld his principles regarding his vocation throughout his working life-, he started his career just in the aftermath of the 1976 students uprising.

It was in March and the events that started in the previous August were just as fresh in the minds of the Western Cape student collective.

He started at the school as a fresher from both the ‘mountain’ and the Lovedale College, where he had studied towards a teaching diploma.

Obviously, this presented its own challenges, both in the crucible of the riots and at a cultural level, if not because as a baby-faced, 21 year old teacher, some of his subjects looked not a day younger than him, and some had also been to circumcision school.

However, he was saved the attendant embarrassment by a peer who had also been to initiation school with him. It is said this ‘man’ student would admonish others who took their chances on Ngculu.

It was the time of Bantu Education, and the enforcement of the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in all subjects, save for the vernacular.

Emotions were high, and to some extent, mixed. Spontaneous disruptions were the order of the day, but ‘Mthosh’, as he was affectionately called, took it all in his stride.

Rowdy students soon toed the line because they could not afford to raise their voices in front of a man who spoke in measured tones.

It was also at a time when teachers were employed by the schoolmaster on the basis that they have done the ‘methodology’ required for one to teach in front of a class, regardless of the subject.

Some teachers found themselves in this sorry mess, and had to contend with offering lessons in subjects not of their own choice. Not so Ngculu. He had majored in biology. He was regarded as being very lucky by colleagues.

Ngculu was regarded as a man of indelible principles even in the face of a restive student population and a repressive state.

He was not known to ignore the first bell that summonsed teachers to class. At times he would even precede the bell and puff away at his cigarette, but once the bell rang, he would nip it and commence lessons. Over time, even in his absence, his students emulated this quietude; would haul out their textbooks, take notes and read, as if he were in front of them.

“A reliable man, full of respect, responsible, fair, an exemplary citizen, team player and a role model,” Ernest Henda, a former colleague described him.

That over the years, he seldom took a textbook or notebook to class, but a chalk in his hand, became the hallmark of his professionalism.

“But the blackboard would be full of notes and illustrations.” Henda shared.

In 2001, he decided to call it quits, which came as a shock to all and sundry. Even so, the present headmaster is on record as having pleaded with Ngculu to stay the course, to no avail.

Zalisile Tokololo Selbourn Ngculu was born in Kensington on July 1 1956, the third of nine children. He started his formative schooling at Siviwe Primary School, whence he studied at Fezeka Secondary School, and proceeded to Lovedale College.

It was while a teacher that he furthered his education through Unisa, the University of South Africa. His eldest son Zukile said his father was a chronic sufferer, which developed into complications of the heart, delirium and liver impairment. He had developed difficulty in eating and walking and succumbed on November 24 after a stint in hospital.

He leaves behind his wife Nomzi Ngculu, children Zukile, Melisizwe, Sintu and Aphinda, and four grandchildren. Ngculu’s funeral takes place on Saturday from his house in NY111-128 in Gugulethu.

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