As a widow from Mzimkhulu enters the University of Fort Hare (UFH) graduation ceremony on Friday, she will remember her husband who encouraged her to study when others believed a woman’s place was at home.< /p>
Precious Xaba’s husband, Cophelisa, supported her decision to leave their marital home to pursue a university degree.
The 28-year-old will be pursuing a law degree.
Her husband died in 2019 in his third year at university.
“I met my husband when I was 15. He was my first love. We got married when I was 17 and I was enrolled in a BCom degree at the time. Due to the belief of some villagers that the duty of a Makoti (African bride) is to take care of her husband and give birth to him many children and not to go to school, especially university, I dropped out. However, my husband resisted this belief and encouraged me to go back to school to get an education.”
Xaba left her husband, who was a craftsman, and their three-year-old daughter to make their way to the UFH East London campus to study in 2017.
“It wasn’t easy being almost 500km away from my family. There were times when I wanted to quit, but my husband kept encouraging me by saying he wanted his wife to be the first graduate Makoti in the village. So I stayed.”
Her husband became ill in 2019.
“He only spent four days in our new home and was hospitalized. I had to leave in the middle of my exams to go home. When I was in the hospital, I had a conversation with one of the doctors and mentioned that I would like to drop out of university to take care of my sick husband. As he lay on his deathbed, he overheard the conversation. Unable to speak, my husband raised his hand and signaled his disapproval by suggesting I get out.”
He died within a week.
“After his funeral, I was dressed in black as a sign mourning his death and returned to campus to fulfill his dream for me. I shared many tears and had moments of near collapse on campus and during my lectures,” Xaba said.
Xaba has since started a support group to help other women in her village to help themselves to enroll in college.
“I was 15 when I met the life of my life, married at 17, widowed at 25, and graduated at 28.
“I wear my scars as best clothes, a gorgeous hellfire dress. Dear Cophelisa, I hope you will see today that I have not stopped.
“This degree is my inheritance from my husband and I dedicate it to him.”
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