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Nontsikelelo Qwelane

The Order of the Baobab in

Nontsikelelo Qwelane Awarded for:
Her outstanding contribution to education in South Africa and for being an inspiration and role model to both young and old. At the age of 92 Qwelane has earned the title of the oldest known teacher in South Africa.

Profile of Nontsikelelo Qwelane

Nontsikelelo Qwelane believes that she was born to impart knowledge and has dedicated herself to a lifetime vocation of teaching. Born in 1920 at Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, she trained as a teacher and started teaching at the age of 19 in government schools in the Eastern Cape. She later also taught in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Qwelane’s love of teaching is complemented by her unending quest to learn and acquire knowledge. Her thirst for knowledge saw her obtain an MA degree at the University of South Africa (Unisa) at the ripe age of 60. Her colleagues describe her as “a walking geography textbook”.

She has taught and mentored many community leaders including politicians such as the late Mr Enos Mabuza, who was the Chief Minister of the KwaNgwane former homeland. Besides her involvement with school children, Qwelane also participates in other community organisations such as the informal women’s forum.

After retiring, Qwelane didn’t want to stop teaching; she decided to work at private schools and to this day, she still teaches Geography to matric learners at the Metropolitan International College in White River, Mpumalanga. Her pupils consistently achieve good results.

Gogo (granny) as she is affectionately known among her colleagues and students, still plays an active role in the community and still drives her own car. She says her job has never been about money, but about the love of education; it is her calling and as long as she can still teach and has the energy, she will continue to teach.