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Full circle: Veteran realises lifelong dream at IIE Rosebank College

After serving his country with dedication and pride, many would expect Mbulelo Ketye, 68 years old, a military veteran, to retire quietly, perhaps indulging in hobbies or relaxing with family. However, Mbulelo’s retirement began with a new chapter filled with academic pursuits and personal fulfilment.
68-year-old IIE Rosebank College graduate, Mbulelo Ketye- Diploma in IT in Software Development.
68-year-old IIE Rosebank College graduate, Mbulelo Ketye- Diploma in IT in Software Development.

On 24 May 2024, Mbulelo Ketye graduated from IIE Rosebank College Braamfontein Campus with an IIE Diploma in IT in Software Development. This milestone crowned his journey of determination and lifelong learning.

Born in Port Elizabeth, his early years were marked by the turbulence of the 1970s in South Africa. In 1978, he completed his schooling amid student uprisings. He harboured a deep interest in computer sciences, then known as PC Computer Sciences.

Despite being accepted to study at Rhodes University, bureaucratic barriers prevented him from pursuing his dream at the time. The apartheid-era regulations and financial constraints made higher education an elusive goal.

Life took him on a different path. Mbulelo served in the military, developing a robust sense of discipline and resilience. After his military service, he joined Telkom, where his passion for programming was rekindled. He encountered Java programming, which was essential for his role at Telkom. Despite several attempts to further his education in programming while working, circumstances never aligned favourably.

Retirement in 2016 was an essential moment in his life. Unlike many retirees who might settle into a life of leisure, he felt the urge to revisit his "unfinished business" – Mbulelo's dream of becoming a programmer.

Encouraged by a friend's daughter who studied at IIE Rosebank College Braamfontein campus, he decided to give it another shot. He enrolled in a full-time IIE diploma in IT in software development in 2018.

Mbulelo’s study desk in his rented room.
Mbulelo’s study desk in his rented room.

Mbulelo was part of the Telkom team that moved phone lines from the old Juta building to the new IIE Rosebank College Braamfontein Campus building, unaware that he would one day be a student at the same college. He recalls transferring telecoms equipment for the college years ago, which now feels like a full circle occasion.

Little did he know that his attempts to maintain smooth communication with the college would represent his future relationship with the institution. This unexpected turn in his voyage adds a depth of poetic justice to his narrative, demonstrating how life's paths may take us to places we previously only saw from afar.

His journey at IIE Rosebank College was challenging. Adapting to a rigorous academic schedule after years of professional life was demanding. Moreover, transitioning from traditional classroom settings to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic posed additional hurdles. However, his tenacity saw him through.

He utilised every resource available – from recording lectures for later review to seeking guidance from supportive lecturers and fellow students.

A particularly memorable part of his academic journey was the unwavering support from his lecturers. Their support, coupled with his relentless pursuit of knowledge, enabled him to overcome the technological and academic challenges he faced.

Studying full-time required significant adjustments. He spent countless hours in his home, dedicated to understanding complex programming concepts and completing assignments.

68-year-old IIE Rosebank College graduate, Mbulelo Ketye- Diploma in IT in Software Development.
68-year-old IIE Rosebank College graduate, Mbulelo Ketye- Diploma in IT in Software Development.

His strategy included meticulous note-taking, recording lectures, and leveraging the help of fellow students and lecturers. Despite the physical and mental demands, he persisted, driven by the goal of not just participating but excelling.

In December 2023, the culmination of his efforts was realised. Upon checking his results, an overwhelming wave of emotion and achievement washed over him. It wasn't just a personal victory and testament to his lifelong resilience and the pursuit of dreams.

The official graduation ceremony in 2024 was a moment of immense pride and joy shared with his family and friends.

His story is more than just about obtaining a diploma; it is about the triumph of the human spirit. This veteran's journey from the battlefield to the classroom at IIE Rosebank College inspires many, proving that age is no barrier to education and that there is always time to chase your dreams.

His graduation in 2024 was a beacon of hope and determination, showing that challenges can be overcome, and goals can be achieved with perseverance.

13 Jun 2024 14:35