Former pupil returns to old school as lecturer

Michelle Wasserman

A young woman who against all odds became a UCT lecturer, recently returned to her former high school in Knysna to inspire pupils and other women. 

Thabisa Xhalisa 28, said that after her story appeared in The New Age she was invited by Knysna mayor Georlene Wolmarans and her former school to address them. 

“This I regarded as a big honour because it also formed part of women’s month celebrations,” she said. Xhalisa, who is a single mother of two children, recently obtained her masters degree in education, and said she suffered from exhaustion while studying. 

During her lifetime she has lost almost all her siblings, never knew her father and many times had to knock on people’s doors for food. But things have changed and she can now inspire other young people and women. 

In her speech, Xhalisa paid tribute to the 20000 who marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the pass laws. 

Her mother, Winnie Dideka Xhalisa, gave birth to her and her brother in Pollsmoor prison, while she was incarcerated as a political activist. 

“During this time apartheid’s viciousness was blatantly evident throughoutSouth Africa. It hovered like a fire-breathing dragon and did not have an inch of sympathy toward the blacks, Indians and coloureds and any of its white opponents. It succeeded in segregating this nation and made us believe that we were different from each other. 

“It is for this reason the youth and the women revolted against the apartheid system. My mother happened to be one of those ‘barbarians’, as they were called by the apartheid regime. At age 16, before she met my father, she was forced into a traditionally arranged marriage,” she said. 

She told the pupils about the hardships her mother endured, of how she lost her three siblings in a house fire and of her sister kidnapped, by a traditional healer and still missing. Xhalisa stressed the importance for young women of education.

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