Two cum laude graduates remember their late mothers during graduation

Xolani Methula holds up a poster dedicating his degree to his late mother. Picture: Nkosi Gcabashe

Xolani Methula holds up a poster dedicating his degree to his late mother. Picture: Nkosi Gcabashe

Published May 16, 2024


Durban — Two graduates have paid homage to their mothers, who did not get the chance to see them graduate this week.

The graduates, one from the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the other from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), graduated earlier this week.

A DUT graduate, Smanga Mpanza said he almost “lost his mind” after hearing of his mother’s death.

Mpanza’s mother died during his second year. However, he used the pain of losing her to focus more on his studies instead of throwing in the towel.

Mpanza, 25, graduated during DUT’s 2024 Autumn Graduation ceremony, held at Indumiso Campus on Monday.

He is among the Faculty of Art and Design’s top achievers, as he has obtained a Bachelor of Education in Senior and FET phase in record time, with cum laude.

Mpanza, who hails from Mandeni (Tugela Mouth), shared his journey, the difficulties and the triumphs, including the painful memory of losing his mother a day before writing his year-end exam paper.

“My journey with DUT began in 2020. I enrolled through the late application period since this course was new and we were the first group to do it. I was the last person to get accepted, I registered and obtained accommodation the same day,” Mpanza said.

“In November 2022, I nearly lost my mind when I received the news of my mother’s passing. It was a Friday and the following Monday I was scheduled to write my paper. I thought my life was over, but something told me to work even harder and do it for my late mother.”

Mpanza felt the Covid-19 pandemic, which led the country into lockdown, as it also made his academic life difficult. Having grown up in rural areas without access to modern facilities, he struggled with the online learning platform and other online sites used for assignment submissions. He had to put a double effort into familiarising himself with that situation.

“Graduating with cum laude is a significant achievement to me, indicating my outstanding academic performance and dedication I have been putting towards my studies. It also demonstrates my strong work ethic, discipline, and commitment to excellence,” Mpanza said.

Smanga Mpanza almost ‘lost his mind’ after hearing of his mother’s death. Picture: Nqobi Mngobese

In another mom moment, a UKZN graduate held up a poster – “Cum laude for my late mom” – during his graduation ceremony.

When Xolani Methula graduated on Tuesday, he held up the poster when he was on stage.

The Bachelor of Educational Psychology Honours cum laude graduate tugged at everyone’s heartstrings when he walked onto the graduation stage.

Methula’s mother died in 2011 when he was aged 11. After his mother died, his grandmother and aunt raised him in Nongoma.

His grandmother and aunt attended his graduation on Tuesday. Although Methula appreciated that his grandmother and his aunt were at the ceremony, he wished his mother was there too, to celebrate with him.

Methula remembered a time his mother brought groceries and clothes home in December.

“That’s what I miss the most about her – her support,” Methula said.

As the second-born of his mother’s four children and the first in his family to attain an Honours degree, Methula hopes to inspire his siblings to follow in his footsteps.

“I really hope my siblings are inspired by this accomplishment and follow suit,” Methula said.

Methula pursued his honours with the help of a postgraduate scholarship from UKZN and is currently working towards his Master’s in Educational Psychology, supported by a bursary from the university. Graduating with cum laude makes him part of the 414 students receiving this distinction at this year’s Autumn Graduation.

Hoping to wear a red gown one day and become a lecturer for his alma mater, he expressed gratitude to UKZN for their support.

“I’m eternally indebted to the university for recognising my hard work and funding my studies from undergrad to Master’s level,” Methula said.

Proud to represent Nongoma and his high school, Meyama High, Methula said: “I hope this inspires other learners from rural areas to reach for their dreams and know that anything is possible.”

Xolani Methula holds up a poster dedicating his degree to his late mother. Picture: Nkosi Gcabashe

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