An emotional 23-year-old Mr Dumisani Ngobese could not hold back his tears as he walked the University’s graduation stage after being conferred with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Ngobese – who is now pursuing his Honours at UKZN – said he was overcome with emotions as he reflected on what he described as a ‘long and difficult’ journey.
He was raised by his maternal grandmother in Bhukhanana, a rural area outside eMpangeni. She was a street vendor and sole breadwinner, so said Ngobese, in a house where there were over 10 children.
Unfortunately for Ngobese, his grandmother could not make the trip to see him graduate due to poor health. ‘It was going to be difficult for her because she is not well and she would have had to take about three taxis to get here. But my mother and aunt were present at the graduation,’ he said.
While he could not afford to buy a suit for graduation, as many of his peers did, missing is graduation ceremony was not an option. ‘I could not afford to buy a suit but I just had to be there at graduation,’ he said.
Pictures of an emotional Ngobese in tears on stage were shared on UKZN’s social media platforms. The posts went viral with thousands of South Africans offering words of encouragement and some pledging various donations.
Durban businessman, Mr Calvin Mathibeli was so moved by Ngobese’s story that he decided to create a permanent post for the young graduate. He has also undertaken to pay for Ngobese’s Honours degree studies.
‘I was so moved by his story because of his resilience but also because of the similarities that we have in terms of background,’ said Mathibeli who owns Calvin and Family Group of companies.
According to the 34-year-old businessman, the group has interests in agriculture and minerals and has 12 subsidiaries with offices in seven provinces and a presence in Namibia and Lesotho.
‘I had other vacancies but I thought let me create one, especially for Dumisani. He will be starting work on Monday, it will be a good position and a permanent one. He said he is studying online and we will also be paying for his studies.’
Mathibeli said he will also groom Ngobese in business should he also want to pursue this path. ‘Of course, business is not for everyone. What we will do is to find out what his dreams are and we will complement them,’ he said.
Mathibeli said Ngobese’s story resonated with his own experiences. ‘I was also raised by my grandmother in a big family but our resilience has made us who we are. I want to ensure that Ngobese is able to earn a living so that he can also contribute to his family. All I need from him is to respect the job.’