Double delight as identical twins graduate side-by-side with same degree

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They were born five minutes apart twenty-five years ago and they have been inseparable since. This week, identical twins Refiloe and Hape Sejake walked the UFH 2023 May Graduation stage side-by-side and were hooded at the same time to graduate with the same degree – most likely a first for the University of Fort Hare in its 100 Years of Graduation.

The pair graduated with Bachelor of Nursing degrees.

Refiloe and Hape were born in Johannesburg and raised in Virginia in the Free State by a single mother and their maternal grandmother in a one-room shack and later moved into an RDP house. They matriculated from Marematluo Secondary School in 2017.

How they ended up at UFH is an amazing tale, that was inspired by an occasion that occurred when they were just eight years old.

“When we were eight and in Grade 2, our mother graduated from Fort Hare. We attended the graduation day at the Alice campus. Although we could not enter the hall due to children not being permitted inside, we felt the celebrations and the emotions that came with it while we were standing outside with family-friends. From that day, we knew this is where we wanted to study.”

Their mother, Juliet Sejake graduated with a Social Work degree and currently works as a Social Worker at Sibanye-Stillwater Mine.

The twins’ passion for nursing was ignited and nurtured from childhood when they cared for their grandmother who was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension that caused her to lose her eyesight in 1999.

“She used to call us her little nurses as we brought her medication and water to drink.” After 10 years, in 2009 their grandmother underwent an eye operation and her sight was restored, sadly she passed away in 2021 after suffering a stroke. “We wish she was here to witness her little nurses being qualified as professional nurses.”

Walking across the stage side-by-side came as a surprise, said the duo. “One of us was next to go on stage when the Dean (Prof Mzikizai Nduna) asked to call the other twin to come on stage together. It was so unexpected and exciting! We have watched the recording over and over,” they giggled.

In addition to having physical resemblance, the twins also do a lot of stuff together. They wear the same clothes, eat the same food at the same time, and sometimes speak the same sentences at the same time.

Throughout their studies they were allocated the same room from first to final year– something they said they prayed for every year.

As luck would have it, they are also doing their community service at the same facility– Aberdeen Hospital.

Their mother Juliet, said although she knew graduation day was inevitable, it felt unreal when she witnessed her daughters being capped.

“I was overwhelmed with emotions, thinking of our humble beginnings, having to raise children in a shack with a leaking roof. I pray that my daughters would become successful and remember to lend a hand to those who are currently in their humble beginnings.”