Parow woman whose husband walked 600km to pay student debt graduates

Washiela Williams at her graduation ceremony with her husband, Lucien.

A Parow West woman’s dream of becoming a school teacher and the first in her family to graduate from university has now become a reality after she and her husband raised R30 000 to pay off her student debt earlier this year.

Washiela Williams, who was initially meant to graduate from Unisa in March, says the university told her she couldn’t receive her Bachelor of Education degree until she paid her outstanding fees.

After starting a BackaBuddy campaign, which didn’t receive much traction, her husband, Lucien Williams, walked 600km from the Cape Town Stadium to George from Thursday March 23 to Saturday April 1, raising the R30 000 needed to cover his wife’s student debt (“Parow man’s walk to cover wife’s student debt pays off,” Northern News, April 14).

Ms Williams graduated with a Bachelor of Education in early childhood development from Unisa on Wednesday October 25.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I love being with children. I don’t do it for the money; I do it because I like helping children and knowing that I can teach them something and see how they grow over the years,” she said.

Ms Williams, who is one of four children, is the first in her family to graduate from university.

“It is very overwhelming. I was filled with so many emotions. I cried happy tears,” she said. “I am so happy that I graduated and that everything is sorted now. I felt very emotional and also nervous at the same time. It was non-stop smiling on the day.”

Mr Williams said he was glad he could be there for his wife when she needed him.

“Seeing her graduate was the culmination of a lot of hard work and determination. I saw her persevere through financial difficulties, through studying in the dark during load-shedding under an LED light with no laptop or computer, submitting projects on her mobile phone, and going to the library to research and make copies.

“I saw the strength and determination of the woman I married. Seeing her on stage that day, I was so proud I shouted so loud that people gave me vuilkyke. I love her and I’m so proud of her.”

Ms Williams said she now looked forward to applying for a better job. She had previously worked in retail before studying education, which had limited the time she could spend with her family, she said.

“Now that I’m in this career the benefits are that I am at home during school holidays so I can spend more time with my family and also financially it is going to improve our situation.”

The newly graduated teacher said she looked forward to gaining experience in teaching and hoped, at a later stage, to complete her post-graduate degree so she could each pupils in the intermediate phase as well.