This pensioner is on a mission to show that it’s never too late to learn something new.
Johan Drotschie (80) from Roodepoort recently became one of the country's oldest students after he enrolled in STADIO School of Law's distance-learning Bachelor of Law program.
“It’s all new to me to study distanced learning but I get on top of it,” Johan tells YOU. “I’m a simple old man. All I want is to study.”
Johan retired from his corporate finance job in 1999 but knew he couldn’t just sit around waiting for time to pass.
“To me, retirement isn't sitting on the stoep and drinking tea. It's the start of a new phase in your life,” he says.
The father of three then decided to become a trustee and financial adviser for two major companies, and also serves on a board for pension funds and provident funds. While serving as a trustee, Johan stumbled across terms and new laws that he didn’t fully understand and decided he wanted to find out more.
“I wanted to get on top of all these changes in the laws that affect us,” Johan says.
“On most of the boards that I serve, we also have employed advocates and people with LLB qualifications. I wanted to be able to speak to them on their level.”
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That’s when Johan decided to pursue an LLB.
“By chance, I saw this advert in a newspaper for this local firm called STADIO and I registered,” says Johan, before adding that he had a bit of a rocky start.
“I only got my textbooks on 28 March, and I had to hand in my first assignment on 22 April, so it was quite hectic.”
Johan studies every afternoon after 1pm and is currently doing seven bridging subjects, after which he'll officially start his LLB.
“Because I haven't studied law before – I have a financial background – I now have to do seven bridging subjects which the normal law student would’ve done in three years,” he says.
Johan, who last acquired a certificate in advanced trust laws from the University of Pretoria in 2002, says distanced learning proved to be a challenge for him at first.
“You have your lecture notes and textbook and you’ve got to work through that, and only from time to time there’ll be a Teams meeting where people will get the opportunity to ask questions and the lecturer will respond," he explains.
“The interactivity is the one thing you miss when you study. You meet people and form groups, and you discuss, and you debate and that’s how you learn.
“But here you're sitting quite alone and forlorn and what you have in front of you is a textbook and lecture notes.”
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The grandfather, who sings and performs at old-age homes in his spare time, also struggles to remember the things he learned but says it’s been getting easier with time and practice.
“At 80, your mind isn’t all that sharp anymore. I’m not complaining, I knew before the time it would be difficult and I’m quite prepared to carry on my studies,” he says.
Johan’s wife, Ans (81), to whom he's been married for 56 years, was at first worried that he might be taking on too much but now she fully supports his goals.
“She’s quite surprised at the fact that I registered and, of course, she’s worried that she might not see me that much. But she supports me and appreciates why I’m doing it,” he says.
Their children, Anneke (54), Bernard (50) and Jaco (46), are just as supportive and proud of their dad.
“They’re quite thrilled at the idea of their old dad studying.
“I’ve got a granddaughter who passed matric with 11 distinctions. She’s at Stellenbosch University and I told her to pull up her socks because I’m going to have my degree before she does,” he chuckles.
Once Johan’s done with his LLB, he hopes to be admitted as an attorney, he says. “That'll be the ultimate goal.”
The retiree now hopes to encourage other elderly people who hope to study something new.
“Thank heavens I’m blessed with good health and a good brain. I understand that if you’re a sickly person, you'll struggle to study,” Johan says.
“But if you have good health and so on, I can’t see why you can’t study. It’s mindset and commitment and realising what you’ve let yourself in for.”