George Rowley Marolen, who died on Tuesday after a short illness, was like an oasis of sweet water in the desert of poverty and illiteracy where hundreds of African children quenched their thirst.
Born to Daniel Marolen and his wife Florah, Marolen started his early education in Atteridgeville.
When his parents relocated to Daveyton in 1955, he continued his education at Madingoane Primary School. He furthered his studies in Polokwane, Pimville, Soweto, and matriculated at Mariazell College, Matatiele, in Eastern Cape.
It was while he was studying for a BAdmin degree at the University of Fort Hare that he showed astute political leadership and maturity as a committed member of the South African Student Associaton (Saso).
Ever keen to excel in his studies, Marolen went on to obtain his Honours and Masters degrees at the University of South Africa.
He was an activist in the Black Consciousness Movement, a freedom fighter, revolutionary, teacher, a father and brother to many.
The dawning of the new South Africa happened through commitment and a lot of sacrifices by courageous men such as George.
During the height of the Draconian apartheid era when terror ravaged black townships and the leadership of the oppressed was incarcerated or in exile, Marolen was mandated to serve political stalwarts, especially Winnie Madikizela- Mandela. His task entailed supplying her with food while she was banished to Brandfort.
Politics was not something new to the Marolen family. In 1976 his father, who was also a renowned writer, poet and founder- cum-director of the African Bureau of Education, left South Africa to seek political asylum in the US after it emerged that he was on the wanted list of the Special Branch.
After years in exile, he returned home to Daveyton. He died in 1995.
For Marolen, education was a tool to fight for the emancipation of Africans academically.
As headmaster of Hulwazi Secondary School and teacher par excellence of commerce and business economics, his pupils consistently obtained excellent grades in matric for almost two decades.
His selfless contribution prompted the Gauteng Department of Education to recognise him for his teaching excellence.
A few weeks ago the Oasis of Life Family Church honoured him for his tireless and unwavering commitment to education in Daveyton. As fate would have it, this was to be his last public appearance before the people he had served with pride and distinction.
His long-time friend Nkwenkwe Nkomo said: "Rowley was the life and soul of our community, by his dedication to the liberation struggle and to the African child."
At the time of his death, Marolen was a teacher at Petit High and taught business subjects at the Gauteng Music Academy, where he was also a member of the board.
He will be buried at Phumulani Cemetery, Holfontein, Ekurhuleni, tomorrow.
A requiem mass will be held at the Roman Catholic Church, between Sigalo and Sihoko streets, from 7 to 9am.