Fifty years after passing his matric, Michael Willemse has finally 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 grant recipient is studying anthropology and politics and is awaiting approval for National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding.
Willemse was born in Pietermaritzburg and grew up in Cape Town, passing Grade 12 at Bellville High School in 1970.
He dreamed of being an architect, but due to his family background he could not study further and had to look for a job instead. He worked in the aviation industry for most of his life and at retirement age, he decided to further his studies.
Willemse said he was inspired by a friend who was admitted to Rhodes University last year.
“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,” Willemse said.
“I feel 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.”
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 urged young people not to let their family background deter them from realising their dreams, as opportunities to obtain funding were available.