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Truck driver defies odds, graduates with Bachelor of Education at UNISA

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From getting into road accidents, being fired, changing employers, and writing assignments at truck stops, a truck driver never gave up believing he could make history in the trucking industry and graduate with a Bachelor of Education (BEd), writes Godfrey Madibane of the UNISA Department of Institutional Advancement.

Sibonelo Nsindane, 39, from Bulwer in KwaZulu-Natal, defied odds and recently graduated with his BEd while still working as a long-distance truck driver.

Nsindane’s achievement is worth recognising given the impractical hours of his driving job, coupled with strikes, low wages, fatigue and sleep deprivation.

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All that did not stop Nsindane from pursuing his dream of studying to become a teacher. As a result, Nsidane, a father of four sons graduated with a Bachelor of Education, Intermediate and Senior Phase.

He explains: “In the truck industry, they did not understand that I am studying to be a teacher. As a result, I had disagreements with employers and often got fired.”

He adds that one time he went to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to have the employer give him time to write his exams; unfortunately, he lost the case.

Sibonelo Nsidane
Professional trucker, Sibonelo Nsindane now a Bachelor of Education graduate. Pic: UNISA

“I also once had an accident on my way to Pretoria from KZN. Upon inspection of the internal cameras, the employer found that I was studying when I was supposed to be sleeping. So, unfortunately, I was fired immediately,” explains Nsindane. However, he was compensated with some money he used to pay for his studies and invest in a chick farm.

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Read also: Sirizani Butau, The Hero That Rescued 8 People From Burning Bus

Nsindane says his wake-up call was when he found himself away from his family for many months and realised that this would be his reality for some time unless he did something about it.

He says: “I would be away from home for about three to four months.”

“My wake-up call came after a company had me travel away from my family for six months. During this period, in 2014, I registered at Unisa.”

“I am a teacher by nature. Everywhere I go, I teach people and empower them.”

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Nsindane’s leave application to attend his graduation was denied, but true to his determination, he arrived at the #2022UnisaAutumn graduations in KZN, wearing his work suit.

“I came with a work truck as they refused to grant me the day off to attend the graduation ceremony. So, I had to take the truck back to Cape Town from the ceremony,” he said.

His advice to Unisa staff is to be patient and consistent with every student, just as they were with him, because their academic needs are unique and special, according to their backgrounds.

He adds that he will use this achievement to motivate his co-workers before leaving the industry for a full-time teaching post.

“Nsindane’s achievement is true to Unisa’s vision of shaping futures in the service of humanity. The institution has turned a grateful truck driver into a Bachelor of Education graduate in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 which advocates for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all,” Madibane said.

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