He didn't qualify to study at UP but now he's their law faculty deputy dean at just 32!

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Professor Charles Maimela (Photo: Supplied)
Professor Charles Maimela (Photo: Supplied)

Anything for a quiet life! That was the initial goal of Charles Maimela, whose dream after leaving school was to follow a humble teaching career.

But now the young professor finds himself deputy dean at the University of Pretoria (UP), an institution he didn’t even qualify to study at after matric.

Making his accomplishment even more remarkable is that his grandmother used to work there as a cleaner there for 40 years. And Rachel Miba (84) couldn’t be prouder of her grandson.

At 32 years old, Professor Charles Maimela is the youngest and the first black deputy dean of the law faculty at UP.

“It was not part of the plan”, Charles says. “I just wanted to teach and ultimately attain the title of professor and then live my private life quietly.”

It’s a humbling feeling for him and he feels a keen sense of responsibility with the new job. His appointment also offers hope for young black people, showing they can reach great heights regardless of where they come from.

Anything is possible, he says, as long as people remain focused, level-headed and are clear about what they want to achieve.

Charles is the third of four children born to former teacher Louisa and former car company assembly line worker John. He was raised in the Tshwane township of Mamelodi.

Growing up, Charles knew he wanted to carve a career in teaching, as a way of giving back to the community. He acknowledged the pivotal role teachers played in his own life.

But life had its own plans for him. While his final grades were good, he fell short of qualifying to study at UP because he had taken some subjects on standard grade level.

“That’s when I went to Unisa,” he tells us.

“Law was actually my second option and teaching was my first. I was advised to join the queue for law because the one for teaching was too long,” he adds.

And as he worked hard at achieving his goals, his story wrote itself.

“Before completing my LLB I was recruited to join the department of jurisprudence at Unisa as a student assistant, where I got to understand how academia works,” he says.

Charles went on to complete his LLB and his master’s degrees and was eventually appointed as a lecturer on contract at Unisa, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming an educator.

He spent about five years at Unisa then left to join the University of KwaZulu-Natal for three years, subsequently being recruited as the department of private law as a lecturer at UP.

After completing his doctorate with Unisa while working at UP, he was promoted to senior lecturer in 2018.

This year Charles stuck his neck out and applied for the deputy dean position. He was appointed on 1 August.

“The first hurdle I had to clear was qualifying to become a professor. I went through an extensive and robust process of promotion and eventually passed. I became a professor immediately when I received confirmation that I was appointed.”

All of this was the result of working consistently, setting clear career goals and putting in the hours, he tells us.

His family is understandably proud, particularly Rachel.

And while he doesn’t have a family of his own, he believes now is the time to settle down – and to work on new goals such climbing up the academic ladder.

“My next move is to become a dean of a faculty. Or even vice-chancellor. Why not?”

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