Nhlanhla Tembe graduates with Diploma in Building at 54

Tembe and his wife

It was Henry Ford, co-founder of the Ford Motor Company, who once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

It is this spirit of continued learning that led Nhlanhla Tembe down the path of registering for a Diploma in Building (Construction Management and Quantity Surveying) at Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). Tembe was part of the 2812 graduates who received their qualifications at MUT’s virtual graduation on Saturday, 19 June 2021. He was the oldest graduate at 54 years of age; the youngest graduate is 35 years his junior, at just 19.

Tembe comes from a family that encourages attaining university qualifications. Among his siblings, there is a doctor and an engineer, to name a few. Having family members with university qualifications inspired him to also chat his path in higher education.

“When you are in a circle of people with all these qualifications, you feel that you must achieve something too,” he said.

Tembe was drawn to a qualification in building because of his almost two decades experience in construction sites.

“Most of the time I was self-employed.  I was in the signage business in building sites,” said Tembe. “I worked for almost 20 years in that business; and I saw that it (construction) is something that I can do at university now.”

But attaining a university qualification was not going to be an easy task. When Tembe initially came to register for his Diploma in Building in 2017, he was under the impression that he would be studying part-time, which was not the case. He registered for full-time study nonetheless.

“This was a dream that I had, and with the help of my wife that dream came true,” said Tembe. “My wife has been a pillar for me.”

Unlike his younger counterparts, Tembe had the pressures of family life, working part-time and studying full-time to contend with.

However, the thought of reading for an undergraduate qualification with his son, who is 17 this year, was yet another motivating factor.