They say it is never too late to get an education. The country cheered when Muvhango actress Regina Nesengani who plays the part of Chief Azwindini's mother vho-Masindi Mukwerho on SABC 2 soapie Muvhango, received her Ph.D at 65.
Last year, a 75-year-old Durban-based Pumla Ntikinca graduated with her master’s degree in nursing.
Now joining the list of graduates is 64-year-old Limpopo-born Florah Mukumo, who had South Africans reaching for the tissues after she achieved a long time dream of obtaining her first degree.
Motivated, goal-oriented and determined, Florah recently obtained a Bachelor of Information Science qualification at the College of Human Sciences from The University of South Africa (Unisa).
Coming from a poverty-stricken home, as a young girl, education was not an option.
“I was born in a very remote area called Julesburg in Tzaneen. My father died when my siblings and I were still young, and my unemployed mother was left to take care of us by herself. The situation made it difficult for me to matriculate. By the grace of God, I managed to get a job at the Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality as a cleaner,” Florah says.
While working as a cleaner, she was always eager to learn, she loved reading and she was interested in learning to use the computer.
“Seeing my passion to learn, my supervisor allowed me to practice using a computer when I was done with my cleaning duties,” she says.
Florah's name was later recommended for a post at the municipality’s library as a trainee library assistant where her supervisor encouraged her to register to study further for education in higher learning. In 2002, she registered for Adult Basic Education and Training level 4 and computer literacy courses.
“I attended classes after work, which was challenging, but I did it and passed. But what pushed me not to give up was that I was tired of working as a cleaner and wanted to get a better post,” Florah says.
The single mother was now balancing a job as cleaning, a trainee assistant librarian, and her studies.
“Being a single mother is not easy and it is a full-time job,” she says. “Studying at the same time added a bigger load. But because I was expected to perform my library duties at work, I had to study during lunch, my children were very supportive including my colleagues who watched my journey with appreciation.”
Her supervisor advised that she later try learning through distance and e-learning through UNISA.
“This helped me to manage my time and take on a load of work that I could manage,” she says.
Now a graduate, Flora says getting an education is a dream come true.
“It helped me to see things differently and to help library clients with their information needs. I am retiring next year and will continue to support community information needs in various structures such as church and community clubs.”
She encourages more elderly people who did not get an opportunity to learn to never give up and for youth to prioritise their education.
“Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and are passionate," she says.
“People may question getting a degree at this age and think that it is not useful to have a degree at the age of 64 as I am soon going on pension, but the knowledge that I have gained through studying will empower me forever.”
Florah says she would not have done it without the support of her family and colleagues.
“I hope to be a leading example to my children, grandchildren, and every youth out there who is inspired by education,” she says.