Fifty years after passing his grade 12, Michael Willemse has realised his dream of studying at an institution of higher learning and Rhodes University was his first choice. The 67-year-old South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) recipient is studying Anthropology and Politics and is awaiting his approval for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding.
Willemse is from Pietermaritzburg and grew up in Cape Town where he got his matric at Bellville High School in 1970. He had a dream of being an architect but due to his family background, he could not study further and opted for job hunting instead. He worked in the aviation industry for the bulk of his life and, at retirement age, he decided to further his studies. He was inspired by his friend who registered at Rhodes University last year and so Willemse decided to apply.
“After having a conversation with my friend, I asked myself: ‘Why can’t I study?’ I am not dead yet and I cannot look for a job at my age. I feel that we learn every day and we have to impart that knowledge to the younger generation. I have all the experience, but I have no formal higher education in my name and no one can take away the knowledge I am going to get from Rhodes University,” he said.
Willemse received a special welcome from the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela. In welcoming him, Dr Mabizela said: “I warmly welcome Mr Willemse and thank him for coming to Rhodes University. He brings vast experience with him and I am sure young people will benefit immensely from the depth of his knowledge and understanding of things that have happened before. We are absolutely delighted to have him as a senior student among the first years and we wish him everything of the best.”
Willemse said he felt very honoured to have been personally welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor and he is hoping that he will not disappoint. He encourages young people not to let their family background deter them from realising their dreams, as there are opportunities for funding available.