How Nonina Dube-Diphoko left teaching for nursing to keep Vosloorus legend Mama Dolly’s legacy alive

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Nurse Nonina Dube-Diphoko
Nurse Nonina Dube-Diphoko

The career path she followed wasn't the one Nurse Nonina Dube-Diphoko's mother would've chosen for her. In fact, Nonina's mom, herself a well-known and highly respected nurse and clinic founder, wished her daughter could become a teacher after all the violence she had witnessed during apartheid.

It was Nonina's mom, Mama Dolly, that the sick and injured would turn to as Vosloorus became increasingly violent. People could not reach the nearest hospital, Natalspruit, so they would approach Mama Dolly, a well-known midwife for assistance during labour. Nonina even recalls seeing distressed women in labour arriving at her home with the babies' heads on the perineum.

“I remember when I was in matric my bedroom was used as a labour ward and my mother’s bedroom as a post-natal ward. Our dining room was used as a waiting space," recalls Nonina. "Fortunately, there are only two of us at home and by that time my brother was in varsity so we were able to squat in my brother’s room, my mother and I."

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Despite seeing the traumatised and sickly coming to her mom for help, Nonina was not put off by the highly demanding and emotionally distressing work of being a nurse. She says watching her mother take good care of women as a midwife made her love nursing all the more.

As the violence of the apartheid era raged on, Mama Dolly started Eluthandweni Maternity Clinic in Vosloorus because Natalspruit couldn't keep up with the heathcare needs of the residents from Katlehong, Vosloorus and Thokoza who went there.

When the violence ended, people felt that they still needed Eluthandweni and petitioned the local councillor to help Mama Dolly’s clinic survive. "In 1996 she was selected woman of the year and got sponsorship from the Japan embassy which, in 1998, built her the clinic in Vosloorus.”

Meanwhile, Nonina had put her dream of becoming a nurse on the backburner and trained to become a teacher instead to honour her mom's wishes. It was when her mother’s health was deteriorating in 2006 that she decided to enrol in a nursing school. By this stage her mother was also encouraging her to become a nurse.

Nonina's desire was to take over her mother's clinic and she wanted to have the right training to do so.

Finally, Nonina left teaching to become a full-time nurse and keep her mother’s legacy alive.

Today is International Nurses' Day, a day that shines a light on exceptional nurses who go above and beyond the call of duty. Nonina, a professional nurse and advanced midwife and managing director of Eluthandweni, says this day is important to celebrate.

“I am celebrating this day because during this pandemic era is when I felt that nurses play an important role in human lives. I knew it before, but it was not taken seriously and some even thought that nursing can be done by anyone. But now, after I have experienced this era, I can say that nursing is a critical and sensitive profession that one needs to acknowledge and appreciate,” Nonina tells Drum.

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She says now, as nurses, they can see and feel that people appreciate that healthcare workers are making a difference in their lives.

Nonina took over the clinic in 2014 and has managed to add services that were not there before, such as family planning and child immunisation, and she says this is in fulfilment of her mother’s vision.

“My mother wanted this clinic to be a one-stop centre. She was so fond of women and children’s health. I am not yet where I want to be, I want to see this place rendering all the services that are needed by women.

"I want it to be a woman and child health centre and, since last year, we have managed to incorporate services for young men also.

"In the future I want to see this place being a short-stay hospital for women because, as women, we experience a lot of health complications. So I want this place to be a haven during and after pregnancy.” 

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