Introducing our Most Senior Graduate for the 2024 Autumn Grad, Mr Pumelelo Vani aged 68

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Mr Pumelelo Vani, a 68-year-old loving husband and doting grandfather of four from East London, will cross the University of Fort Hare (UFH) 2024 Autumn Graduation stage today as the most senior graduand to be capped this season.

The retired Walter Sisulu University Lecturer will fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an alumnus of this esteemed African University as he graduates with a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education and Training with two distinctions.

Fondly known as Pumi, the father of eight, was born in Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) and raised in Mlungisi location in Komani by his aunt and her husband who became his legal guardians following the divorce of his parents and the death of his maternal grandmother when he was seven years old.

Raised in a home to seven children, his journey to this significant achievement has been one of resilience and dedication. “We were raised by parents (guardians) who taught us the value of respect, humbleness, humility and education, and those are values carried me to where I am today.”

When he passed matric in 1976 at Ntsonkotha High School in Lady Frere Pumi had the desire to further his education. “However, my aunt who sold fish bread for a living told me that due to financial constraints, matric was the furthest that she could take me.  She presented me with a shirt and a tie, signifying that I was ready to enter the workplace.”

After matric Pumi was fortunate to secure a job as a clerk at Nessie Knight Hospital in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape. “This was a privileged position at the time. I worked at the stores department where I was responsible for distributing hospital stock and doing the inventory for the hospital.”

While working at the hospital, the burning desire to acquire a post-matric qualification was ignited and he enrolled for a Diploma in Office Organisation and Management, a one-year programme in 1978.

He later secured a job at Spoornet, now known as Transnet Freight Rail, where climbed the ranks between 1980 and 2013 from being a booking clerk to serving in various managerial positions, including the Area Manager of Park Station in Johannesburg and then Regional Manager of the Eastern Cape in the division on mainline trains.

All this while, he also climbed the ranks of academia starting with an Advanced Diploma in Business Management, followed by a Bachelor of Business Administration and a BCom Honours degree.

Upon completing his MBA, he joined Walter Sisulu University in 2014 as a lecturer in the Department of Business Management Studies where he played an instrumental role as the chairperson of the Department of Learning and Teaching and later as coordinator of the local governance finance programme.

“When the prerequisite for lecturers to hold a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education and Training was announced, I instantly knew that I would go to Fort Hare. After all, this is the institution that gave birth to many African leaders. I wanted to be counted among those who stood on the shoulders of those giants produced at Fort Hare.”

Pumi who lives with his lovely wife, Nombuyiselo is currently a qualified debt counsellor and in the final stages of acquiring accreditation to open a practice in East London and in Komani.