Khayelitsha grandmother Monica Mbenge is the embodiment of hard work and dedication.
At an age when most of her peers are thinking about retirement, Ms Mbenge, 58, has earned a Diploma in Educare from Cape College. She graduated on Thursday May 19.
The mother of two sons, Sakhumzi and Anathi, and a grandmother to many, held a celebration to mark her achievement – and her 58th birthday on Saturday May 28 at her F Section home.
Neighbours and friends came from afar to shower her with blessings and good wishes for the future.
Ms Mbenge said her passion for education started at an early age but she had to drop out of school in 1972 because of financial constraints. She had to put her dreams aside and worked as a domestic worker.
In 1992, Ms Mbenge went back to do Standard 9 (Grade 11) at Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School. She obtained her matric the following year with an exemption.
“I passed very well and I was proud of myself because I was 34 years of age then. Something inside me told me to go back to school. But I am passionate about education. I was a top student in Standard 9, too,” she said proudly.
However, after Ms Mbenge passed matric, things did not go her way and she had to go back to being a domestic worker.
Still, her passion for education continued.
“In 2014 I applied to study at Cape College and was helped through with funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. I did my N5 and N6.
“But I finished my diploma in three years instead of two. I had some challenges and had to pay for my studies in N6. But nothing could have deterred me from obtaining what I wanted,” she said.
Ms Mbenge admits that going to the college was a scary experience but she says she was ready for it.
She said she was proud that she became the oldest person to graduate in her family and her house in particular.
She said she surrounded herself with like-minded people.
“I did not want to be disrobed in my goal. I had a goal to achieve so the best way was to mingle with people with purpose in life. But I wanted my two sons, Sakhumzi and Anathi, to see that no one is too old to get education. I wanted to be an inspiration to them and other young people who are busy with bad things in life,” she said.
On Saturday, speakers at the gathering described Ms Mbenge as a “great inspiration” to all.
Her mentor and old friend Mandisa Piya said she was excited that her friend graduated.
She called on young people to follow in Ms Mbenge’s footsteps when it comes to self empowerment.
Family member, Sindiswa Mpondo-Jwaai said she was happy that they have another graduate in the family.
She said she hoped that many people would see that education has no boundaries.