Etienne Mentoor and Eslyn Isaacs have retired from the University of the Western Cape’s faculty of economic and management sciences after a lifetime of devotion to the institution.
The two lecturers, from Kuils River, form part of a group of recently-retired academics who started their relationship with UWC as students, continued as lecturers, and walked with the university right up to retirement.
After almost four decades as a lecturer at UWC, researching and teaching about survival and performance of small businesses (among other subjects), Mr Isaacs is most proud of two things: that he could contribute to education and training on both a local and a global level and that he got to do it both under apartheid and in a free South Africa.
“Coming to UWC, my hope has always been to plough back some of the experience and knowledge gained in the private sector to both the SMME (small, medium and micro-sized enterprises) sector and to the students,” he said.
Mr Isaacs worked in the clothing business as a researcher and merchandiser in the early 70s, until he saw an interesting advert.
“UWC intended starting an institute for small business and was looking for people to fill some newly-created posts,” he said. “I applied to UWC, and the rest is history.”
When Mr Isaacs started working at UWC in the early 1970s he was one of only two UWC staffers to be part of an exclusive international academic programme teaching entrepreneurship, both locally and internationally, which took him to Sweden, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Vietnam.
“It’s exciting to know that we’ve helped people here and around the world become better consultants, better teachers and facilitators.”
He believes that entrepreneurship – and an entrepreneurial mindset – is key to success for the youth, and for South Africa as a whole.
“Your first thought shouldn’t be to find a job in the private sector: first and foremost you need to be a business owner; that is the only way going forward in this country. You should develop a mindset of striving to become self-employed, and be more open to entrepreneurship.”
Mr Mentoor has walked the walk with UWC since he was a student. Born in Grabouw, one of seven children, Mr Mentoor was one of the very first Master’s graduates at the School of Business and Finance (SBF). He feels the government is wasting a lot of money.
“We need properly-resourced primary schools, and I believe everyone must pay for a university education.”
Reflecting on his stay at UWC, he is proud of his work and that done by the SBF.
“My advice to them is to do what they do best and to never stop improving. Do it gradually, do it properly, and keep in mind that some of the team members could be left behind if you move too quickly.”
Mr Mentoor knows a bit about taking the long route to success. He initially abandoned his BCom for the private sector to work for an engineering company as a surveyor until a serious talk with his dad about finishing his degree convinced him to return to UWC, where he obtained degree after degree – and also met his wife, Zelda.
“Get your systems in place and pursue perfection,” he said. “And find your own identity: don’t try to be like the rest of the world.”