Former domestic worker Bonisiwe Hlongwa graduates
A woman who had worked as a domestic worker for more than a decade has finally realised her dream of becoming a teacher.
Last week, Bonisiwe Hlongwa, 48, graduated with her teaching diploma from SANTS Private Higher Education Institution after three years of study.
Hlongwa, whose parents died while she was still at school, said she never believed that she would further her education.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher, it was my dream.
"But I never thought it would happen because I had to work to feed myself," said Hlongwa, who lives in Matimatolo, KwaZulu-Natal.
"I have already been given a job as a Grade R teacher at Bhekizwe Primary School and I really enjoy my work."
The mother of two said she was the first graduate in her family and wants to be an inspiration to others who want to change their lives for the better.
"It started small. I first got encouraged to do my [driver's] licence and when I passed, I realised I could still continue with school.
"It is important for me to continue with school so that I can be an inspiration to my children.
"They can learn from me - even though I am at this age, I can achieve a lot."
Hlongwa said she was lucky that her experience as a domestic worker was a good one because she worked for a family that treated her like their own family member.
Although she stopped working as a domestic worker in 2003 and became a housewife to a policeman, she remained close to her previous employer, who was instrumental in encouraging her to pursue her studies.
"I was treated like a sister by my employer and I helped her raise her kids.
"She was very supportive and encouraged me to pursue my studies," she said.
Lerato Kortjass, 24, whose family employed Hlongwa as a domestic worker, said she was proud of her amazing achievement.
"She doesn't realise how instrumental she has been in my life because she was there since the day I was born. She raised me as her own from day one.
"She went from not understanding a word of English to this...
"It's the most amazing achievement... we don't even have words," Kortjass said.