'It feels good, finally I can write my name'
For as long as he can remember, 92-year-old grandfather Kodlimkhonto Gina of Nkolokho in Mtubatuba dreamt of learning how to write his name.
Simple things such as counting and reading were a privilege to him and his community.
But, his lifelong dream to get an education has come true. Last Thursday he was among the 2 100 pupils who graduated under the Masifundisane Mass Literacy Programme.
He received his certificate when it was delivered by education officials and education MEC Ina Cronje to his doorstep. He could not attend the ceremony because of his failing health. For him it was the "surprise of his life" when the officials came knocking at his home bearing the good news.
The news that elderly people finally have an opportunity to learn how to read, write and count is a "miracle", he said, because he thought going to school at his age was impossible.
"I have always been passionate about education."
He said though he could not go to school, and was too old to start going to school, he had played a huge role in establishing two of the first schools in his community more than 40 years ago. He had donated a piece of his land and initiated plans for the establishment of the Dibase Primary and Asiphikelele High schools.
"I am very happy, this feels so good. Finally I am able to write my own name,' said Gina with a smile.
He said that when he was growing up boys were supposed to herd the cattle and carry out all the duties performed by men at home, while young girls fetched water from the river, cooked and performed all other duties in the house.
In his day there was no time to go to school and learning was perceived as a thing for "whites" only.
At the ceremony the elderly graduates who filled the tent sang songs of joy and thanked their teachers and the department for giving them the opportunity to learn.
Handing over the certificates, Cronje said: "We are very proud of the challenge that the elderly people have taken and the confidence they have shown in believing that nothing is impossible."
Another graduate, Bancukuzile Mgabhi, 87, is the second eldest pupil.
When asked to give a vote of thanks on behalf of the pupils, an emotional Mgabhi said she is now able to count change, sign when doing her banking and read newspapers.