Mom to collect master's degree of son who succumbed to cancer before graduation

2018-12-11 07:14
Gerbrandt Kotze (Supplied to News24)

Gerbrandt Kotze (Supplied to News24)

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For two years Amanda Kotze  hoped for a miracle, praying her son would fulfil his dream of completing his master's degree to accomplish his goal of teaching young people about the wonders of science.

The miracle she will experience on Tuesday is not the one she had been hoping for, but an alternative she will gladly accept as she walks across the stage at Stellenbosch University to accept Gerbrandt Kotze's MSc degree on his behalf.

The promising student died of colon cancer that spread to his liver two weeks before his parents were informed that his MSc thesis had passed.

He was 26 years old.

Gerbrandt, who grew up in Paarl, was diagnosed after falling ill in April 2016.

Kotze speaks proudly of her son, who continued with his studies while undergoing chemotherapy.

'A beautiful heart'

"He was so determined. It was very important to him to finish his master's. He knew what he wanted in life," his mother said fondly.

"We trusted God for a miracle. But it's happening differently to what we expected."

Gerbrandt studied under the guidance of Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus of the RME-Nano research group in inorganic chemistry at the department of chemistry and polymer science.

Malgas-Enus founded a programme which helps pupils from underprivileged schools excel in science, Kotze explained. Gerbrandt was an active assistant, eager to teach young people about the marvels of his field.

"He cared about people and he had a beautiful heart. He was just a lekker mens," Kotze recalled affectionately.

He had hoped to enter the classroom and become a science teacher like his older brother, who has his BSc. Honours degree in Nuclear Physics.

Special gathering to celebrate

He practiced his teaching skills on his younger sister, 10, an abandoned baby the family adopted as an infant.

"He loved her and always helped her with her maths," Amanda reminisced.

Her son, who she describes as quiet but with a sharp sense of humour, was buried a day after what would have been his 27th birthday.

"We felt hopeless, but had the brainwave to rather turn that sad occasion into a remembrance day. We asked all who attended to bring food which we gave to a children's home. He would have liked that," she said.

Amanda admits that walking across the stage to collect the reward of her son's hard work will be daunting, but says she's up to the challenge.

"I've asked my husband to wait on the other side of the stage. It will be a long walk, but an honour to do it on his behalf."

And they will celebrate the achievement with a special gathering afterward, tucking into chocolate brownies, mousse cake or milkshake – her "phenomenal" son's favourites.

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  cape town  |  education
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