‘I did my master’s degree while I was a security guard’ – Bloemfontein man

2018-09-30 07:00
Mxolisi Mgolozeli graduated with a master’s degree in governance and political transformation while working as a security guard (PHOTO: Papi Morake)

Mxolisi Mgolozeli graduated with a master’s degree in governance and political transformation while working as a security guard (PHOTO: Papi Morake)

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WATCH: 127 inmates receive qualifications at inspirational graduation ceremony

2018-09-25 12:28

The Department of Correctional Services handed out 127 qualifications, including one master's degree, to graduating offenders. Watch.WATCH

Night after night you’ll find him out in full uniform patrolling the grounds at the University of the Free State.

 As security supervisor, Mxolisi Mgolozeli is tasked with protecting the students and workers at the university, a job he loves.

But he’s no ordinary security guard. The ambitious 51-year-old recently made headlines when he graduated with a master’s degree in governance and political transformation, a qualification he had to sweat blood and tears for, he tells DRUM proudly.

Mxolisi decided to go back to school in 2009 at the age of 43, more than two decades after the last time he sat behind a desk. Before long he’d attained his BAdmin, which he finished in four years. He then worked on his honours and masters.

And he’s not done yet. He’s just taking a break to make up for the time he spent away from his family but “I want to do my PHD – maybe next year,” he says when we meet with him at the university.

Despite his qualifications, he still works as a security guard and was promoted to the position of supervisor in 2014. Furthering his education has always been a dream – he just didn’t have the money.

His father, Zikhathile Mgolozeli (76), was a farmworker so Mxolisi knew early on that his family would not be able to fund his studies after matric.

But he made lemonade out of his lemons and got training from Bidvest Protea Coin as a security guard in 1992. “But I was always passionate about education,” he says.

Mxolisi, who lives in Rocklands in Bloemfontein, started working at the university in 2003 and six years later he saw a chance to make his lifelong dream come true and enrolled for his undergraduate studies.

 “Because I was already working with people I decided to take something that was going to develop my skills. I know how to deal with people and when they’re angry I’m able to make them calm. Everyone knows I’m good at that.”

Once he got a taste for education he just kept going – and this year Mxolisi became the proud recipient of a master’s degree. Mxolisi wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of his family, who had to deal with his long absences while studying.

His wife, Gadihele Nakedi (45), and their two sons, Samukelo (13) and Unathi (11), were supportive every step of the way.

“I had to work to provide for my family and also study. I had to attend class every day, there were tests and assignments. It was really hectic. With undergrad, there are a lot of modules – sometimes you have to write two tests for each module and assignments would be due. It became really difficult but I soldiered on.”

He even thought about giving up sometimes. “But my commitment and my family’s support kept me going,” he says.

“Even when I didn’t go home after work and went to the computer lab my wife understood I wasn’t cheating on her. She knew I was studying.”

He worked four 12-hour shifts at a time, which included two night shifts and two day shifts. He would then be off for four days. He received plenty of support from his colleagues and lecturers, he says, which was invaluable.

“As long as I gave them the schedule for my classes, my department gave me time to study.” Mxolisi had to make many sacrifices, including giving up soccer, a game he loves. As a young man growing up in Khwezi Village near Queenstown, Mxolisi wanted to be a lawyer. His father made very little money and his mom, Noluzile (70), was unemployed.

 “I couldn’t go to university. My father was able to take care of us, we lived. But education was always on my mind.”

Fortunately for Mxolisi, UFS offers free tuition to its employees, so when he was ready, he seized the opportunity.

His persistence hasn’t gone unnoticed and he has become an inspiration to his family and colleagues. Fellow security guard Khethelo Nkili says Mxolisi’s story has inspired many.

“People are studying because of him. Some are doing short courses, and those who didn’t have matric have made arrangements with the department of education to rewrite their exams,” he says.

Mxolisi’s younger brother, Nkosiyabo (42), a police officer, has also enrolled for a degree in forensics in Cape Town after seeing his brother’s perseverance.

 “I didn’t know I was inspiring people,” Mxolisi says humbly. “Even my kids make sure they do their homework first thing when they get home.” Samukelo wants to be a doctor while Unathi has plans to be a lawyer.

“We talk about education at home all the time. I always tell them if they want to be doctors and lawyers they have to work hard.” He learnt about the cost of opportunity from his economics lecturer – his hardest subject – Mxolisi says.

“To get something you must sacrifice something and my sacrifice was football. If you want to be educated you have to choose what you want to give up for something that is a long-term benefit.”

He would love to work in academics one day, Mxolisi says. He enjoys his work as a security guard but hopes his hard work doesn’t go to waste.

“Luck still isn’t on my side but I hope my master’s degree will open doors for me as I believe education should make your life better,” he says.

“If not, people will start asking why they should study if your life doesn’t change even after you’ve obtained a qualification. If I can get an opportunity to enter the academic side of things, it would be great.”

Education makes a person younger, believes Mxolisi, whose research was focused on how ward committees influence community participation, specifically in the Mangaung Municipality.

“The more you study the younger you become because you spend more time with the younger generation and you understand their language and their way of living. You learn a lot from them also.” Being an older student was a challenge at first.

“I would attend lectures in my security guard uniform and classmates would ask if I thought I’d cope with having a fulltime job and studying too. But after some time I’d hear them say, ‘That old man is a hard worker.’ I knew I was on the right track,” he recalls with a smile.

Taking a break from full-time studying doesn’t mean he’s idle: the ever-busy Mxolisi is currently learning sign language.

“I saw a need to learn sign language as I work with people and sometimes I deal with deaf people. I love people and will do anything to better their lives.” 

Read more on:    education  |  good news

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