Mkhabela was a tireless teacher

Vusi Magudulela

Vusi Magudulela

Workaholic Jeremiah Mkhabela was a noted educator, deacon and priest. He was also a well travelled man who spent a lot of his life on the road.

Born at Sabie in the old Eastern Transvaal in 1923, Mkhabela was raised on a farm in Skiering, near Lydenburg.

Those were the years when children were made to work on farms instead of attending school. His father moved the family to a Roman Catholic farm at Glen Cowie, where Mkhabela attended a mission school. After completing Standard 6, he went to Pax Roman Institution in former Northern Province to train as a primary school teacher.

He then embarked on a mission to educate children whose parents worked on the farms.

He started his teaching career at Glen Cowie Primary School in 1944. In the early 1950s, when apartheid's Bantu Education was introduced, the Eiselen Report struck a death knell to church schools such as Glen Cowie Mission School. But Mkhabela soldiered on despite his salary shrinking every year for the four years when he was not allowed to teach at government schools.

For a decade, he was an assistant teacher and later principal at Glen Cowie Primary.

In 1964, Mkhabela moved to Schagen near Nelspruit and taught at Entabeni Farm School and was appointed principal of Burgersfort Emdeni Primary in 1969.

His last post was at Qhubani Primary School at Monsterlus, in Limpopo , where he retired in 1989. The community of Monsterlus have honoured him by naming the J Mkhabela School after him for his tireless efforts in educating their children.

A staunch Catholic with a passion for choral and gospel music, Mkhabela was ordained deacon in 1986.

He married Mapodile Anna Mashilwane on December 26 1947. He leaves 10 children and 25 grandchildren. He will be buried at Monsterlus after a service starting at 8am at the local Roman Catholic Church.