Mama Babedi warms all in the glow of appreciation for her work

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

On the day she was meant to occupy centre-stage, grand old lady Babedi Kungwane decided to make everyone feel special.

"Look at all these people who have come here today. You see, I don't associate with flops, I never have," said a beaming Kungwane at the weekend to friends, colleagues and family who came to usher her into a life of retirement in Pimville, Soweto.

Kungwane, 65, is the founding principal of Paul Mosaka Primary School, which opened its doors 24 years ago.

Though it has taken the school two years to give her a send-off, Kungwane remained bubbly and kept guests in stitches and warm despite the cold and wet weather.

She retired in 2005, putting 45 years of teaching behind her.

Kungwane began her career at the tender age of 18 at Palesa Community School in George Goch, then known as Eastern Native Township in Johannesburg, where she taught for 10 years.

She was promoted to principal of Thateng Combined School in Klipspruit, Soweto, when she was just 28 years old.

"I was dedicated and energetic. Though I was young, I was ready for the responsibility because I had learnt so much from the people I had worked with before," she said.

Nowadays, she is content looking after her grandchildren, surfing the Internet and keeping fit.

"She looks younger than her age. She has taught us to also look after ourselves. Babedi is one of those fly [streetwise] grannies" said Nomsa Rabotapi, who has known Kungwane for about 50 years.

Speakers lauded Kungwane as a confidante and mother of her community.