From Domestic Worker and Cashier to School Teacher - Nandipha Milisi graduates with a BEd Degree

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A story of Chance, Faith and Perseverance

From domestic worker to cashier, Nandipha Milisi has done it all. Now, a graduate and practicing teacher, she is living proof that anything is attainable.

 The 35-year-old from Peelton outside Qonce graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Foundation Phase) Degree during the university’s recent Winter Graduation on 21 June. 
Milisi passed matric in 2007. Although her desire was to study further and become a teacher, the financial situation at home stalled her dream and she had to find employment. “I first worked as a domestic worker before pursuing a career as a cashier at popular fast food outlets (Spur, Scooters Pizza and KFC). 
Chance, faith and perseverance had to do with the progressive shift in her life. 
Her journey to becoming a graduate was set in motion by a conversation between herself and a woman who had offered her a lift to work one morning. “The year was 2015, I was hitchhiking to work when this woman stopped to give me a ride. During our conversion, she asked me why I was not at school studying further. I explained to her that my salary and my sister’s disability grant was our family’s only income.” 
The response from the lady, Dr Pumla Gqakamba-Mjikeliso who is the mother of well-known SA Author and Journalist, Sibusiso Mjikeliso, left her in awe. “She told me to apply to university and she will take care of my financial needs. I was in awe, this woman did not know me but she was willing to give me a lifetime opportunity.”
Although she never had the means to study further, Milisi always carried her matric certificate with her, with the hope that one day it might come in handy. 
That faithful day arrived when she was delivering a take-away order to the UFH Bhisho campus for Mrs Belinda Harris, UFH Education Faculty Assistant Manager. 
“When I arrived on campus that day the staff were having a faculty board meeting. I showed Belinda my matric certificate and asked her whether I qualified to study for a Bachelor of Education degree. She told me I qualified and encouraged me to apply.” 
She was accepted and started her first year in 2016 on the East London Campus. “Mrs Mjikeliso had offered to pay for my registration, tuition and all other needs such as accommodation, clothes and food. Even though I was fortunate to secure funding from NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme), she still took care of my financial needs.” 
Although the degree takes four years to complete, it took Ms Milisi five years. “It was not easy, there were lots of challenges, one of them being the fact I hadn’t been in school for almost ten years. Secondly, in my first year I tried to juggle work and studying but it did not work out as my studies demanded all my time and dedication.” 
“With the support from Mrs Mjikeliso who always ensured that I had food in my belly and clothes on my back, I persevered. To this day, she still takes care of me.” 
Milisi is a teacher at a Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) school. 
By Aretha Linden