When Njabulo Ntombela’s name was called out at his graduation on Friday, he immediately turned to his great-grandmother, took off his gown so she could wear it and grabbed her hand so they could graduate together.
While he had planned it all along, 89-year-old Nomkikilizo was in complete shock.
But it was not long before she was making noise and giving praise.
Dressed in a blue seshweshwe dress and matching headdress, she shuffled to the stage in her black sneakers.
They then knelt together so they could be capped at the University of KwaZulu-Natal ceremony.
“When something is living inside of you, you can’t get away from it. Whenever I achieve something in life, I know she deserves all the glory,” Njabulo told News24 shortly after receiving “their” law degree.
‘I’m proud of her’
“I think she was shocked and surprised. She didn’t know what was happening. In my mind, she just knew it was a celebration and she must be happy.”
The 27-year-old wore his Zulu traditional dress at the ceremony. He and his great-gran hail from Nkandla.
“It’s famous for different reasons but we still have to hustle and find ways to progress in life,” he said of his rural home.
“Most of us are struggling and come from poor backgrounds.”
After his mom, dad and grandmother died when he was young, he said it was “strong woman” Nomkikilizo who stepped in to look after him and his siblings.
“I would just like her to know I am happy for having her around and proud of her for supporting me.”
Elated that he now has a degree in hand, he said he would always be there to support her.