Vincent Morta, of Kraaifontein, went from being a child pickpocket to holding a top position at the University of the Western Cape.
Mr Morta, 67, recently retired as director of UWC’s quality assurance and management information department.
He grew up in Athlone where he “got caught up with the wrong friends and made bad decisions”.
He remembers squeezing through the busy bus and shop queues to reach for someone’s wallet from their back pocket.
When his parents divorced, he moved in with his grandparents and became “uncontrollable.”
At the age of 11, he was sent to a reformatory school in Pretoria for seven years.
There he completed his primary schooling and later matriculated from Eersterust High School.
In 1972 he moved back to Cape Town and was reunited with his adoptive parents in Kraaifontein.
“The neighbours living next to my grandparents adopted me. My adoptive mother has taught me many lessons. Which is what helped me get to where I am today,” he says.
He remembers his adoptive mother’s words to this day: “Those who come out of the slums will rise above others.”
Even after her death, he held on to those words, using them as motivation.
In 1973 he started working at the Department of Coloured Affairs, where he learnt his matric certificate was misprinted and he had actually failed.
“Although I lacked enthusiasm to do the year over, something told me to keep going and it was the best decision I have ever made.”
In 1975, he started working in the student affairs department at UWC and from there kept climbing the ladder, along the way earning his Bachelor’s, Honour’s and Master’s in administration and a certificate – from Unisa – in total-quality management.
Mr Morta says he hopes to still be a familiar face around the campus and help in the department.
He says young children can fall prey quickly to ills in their communities, but discipline at home can help to prevent that.
“I enjoyed my job thoroughly and I am proud of the hard work I have put in, things could have turned out for the worst.”