In 2010 I was introduced to Mrs. Fransie. She was in her eighties so I called her Ouma. I assisted Ouma Fransie on Saturdays. After work, Ouma and I would sit and talk about life. Later that year, I was employed as a receptionist at the physiotherapy practice, but I still assisted Ouma on Saturdays. During the week, I would work in my professional outfits, and on Saturdays I worked for Ouma in an apron. Ouma loved telling people I was a hard-worker and had so much potential. She would tell people I was studying through UNISA.

She was passionate about education and always told me: “Merriam, remember to open your books every night before going to bed. You will only succeed if you put in effort into your work”. She once told me she obtained her last qualification at the age of 55. She said to me, “Merriam, at that age, do you think I was studying so I could get a job? No, my dear, I was studying to improve my knowledge”. She was right. As a black woman, I was studying so I could get a better job. She changed my perception of education.

Because of her advice, I will never stop studying. When she later moved to an old age home, she had to sell her car. It was an old Toyota Corolla, a 1989 model. I was only four years old when the car was manufactured. Ouma chose me for her car. Luckily, I had savings and bought my first car. I had friends who thought the car was too old for a young person. No one knew how special the car was to me. I named it Grace. In 2013 Ouma succumbed to cancer. It 2015 Grace was stolen.

Both Ouma Fransie and Grace are gone, but the inspirational words from Ouma, “study for knowledge” will remain with me forever.

NM Mahlangu