Cleaner gets degree after 17 years

A Western Cape petrol station cleaner will attend his graduation ceremony at the University of Cape Town after starting a social sciences degree 17 years ago.

Joseph Khohlokoane (44) finished his degree with about R30 000 of study debt in 1996, Afrikaans daily Beeld reported today.

He started working as a petrol attendant at a Shell Ultra City in Worcester to try to pay his debt, as the University of Cape Town would not formally confer his degree until he had settled his account.

“I wanted to pay it off at R100 a month, but they said it wasn’t enough,” Khohlokoane was quoted as saying.

He spent the next 10 years working as a petrol attendant, and then another seven as a cleaner.

“I actually wanted to become a social worker, but after two years they told me I couldn’t carry on, because I stutter. So I changed courses, and switched to social sciences,” Khohlokoane said.

His employer Willem Venter said a farmer in the area Clarence Johnson heard about Khohlokoane’s situation and arranged for his debt to be paid.

Over the years, the debt had accrued interest and had grown to R100 000.

Venter will drive Kholokoane, his wife, and their daughter today to his graduation ceremony in Cape Town.

Kholokoane, dressed in a brand new suit, said he had never lost faith and always knew he would get his degree somehow.

“I’m so happy. I’m free,” he said.

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