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uMlazi man defies several odds and becomes the oldest MUT graduate among the batch of 2021

Nhlanhla Tembe, 54, from uMlazi graduated with a Diploma in Building from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). Picture: Supplied.

Nhlanhla Tembe, 54, from uMlazi graduated with a Diploma in Building from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 24, 2021


DURBAN – The words of Henry Ford, who once suggested that studying knows no age, rung true with a Durban man defying all odds to obtain a university diploma.

The co-founder of the Ford Motor Company once said: “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

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It is this spirit that drove Nhlanhla Tembe on a journey towards attaining a Diploma in Building (Construction Management and Quantity Surveying), the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) has said.

At age 54, Tembe, from the city’s uMlazi township, was the oldest of the 2 812 people conferred with various types of qualifications at a recent graduation, with the youngest aged 19.

He comes from a family with a keenness for tertiary qualifications. It includes a doctor and an engineer among his siblings, which he said were inspirational for him to chart the tough waters in higher education.

“When you are in a circle of people with all these qualifications, you feel driven to achieve something along similar levels too,” said a beaming Tembe.

The nearly two decades spent in construction sites, where he was a contractor, was what generated an interest in him to acquire a professional qualification in the same field.

“During these years, I was doing signage business at construction sites. I worked for almost 20 years in that business, and finally realised that (construction) is something that I can pursue at university level. My business was also no longer doing well due to budget cuts by the parent company.”

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But attaining a university qualification was no walk in the park, he said, going down memory lane.

When he initially came to register in 2017, he thought he would be studying part-time, which turned out not to be the case.

“There was a point in the first few months into the four-year course that I began to have doubts if I had made a wise move. This was due to the pressure of study material, given that it had been many years since I left high school. But the support from the family kept me going, and when I passed with two distinctions in my first year, I was sure there was no turning back,” he told The Mercury.

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“This was a deeply held dream, and with the amazing support from my family and my wife (who was also a student at MUT) that dream came true,” said Tembe.

Unlike his younger mates, Tembe had the pressures of family responsibilities, running his business part-time and studying full-time to contend with.

The MUT was encouraging more people to not view age as a stumbling block against endless studying and obtaining a university qualification, said spokesperson Mbali Mkhize.

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