Tembi Maloney Tichaawa: The car guard who became a doctor
The story of Tembi Maloney Tichaawa is a very inspirational one. He arrived in South Africa in 1997 with a “big dream”. He wanted to contribute to society and he saw education as the key. He was very determined to get to the top. Cameroon-born Tichaawa (who was high school educated when arrived in the country) soon realized that getting a tertiary education was not going to be cheap.
Tichaawa started his new life in South Africa as a car guard in Cape Town but in the back of his mind he knew that his goal was to complete his education. He guarded cars for 8 months before he was offered a job as a security officer at a hotel. On the first anniversary of arriving in South Africa, he lost his mother and it became more difficult, because he could not concentrate and the fees were very high. He never gave up though.
Soon he was working inside the hotel as a night porter. He was pushing trolleys for a few years and that’s when he started to map his future and his education took off. Tichaawa managed to save enough to enroll for a tourism management diploma at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. After obtaining a degree in tourism and hospitality, he enrolled for his master’s in 2008. His brilliant academic record came to the attention of the dean of the university’s business faculty and he was offered a position as a junior lecturer.
Tichaawa completed his Master’s cum laude and studied towards a Philosophy Doctorate at the University of KwaZulu Natal. His doctoral thesis examined the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on Africa, looking at stakeholder and soccer fans’ perceptions in Cameroon and Nigeria.
Despite his academic success, he has not forgotten his days as a car guard. He still frequently chats to car guards, who he has become familiar with when he goes out to buy food. Tichaawa says that car guards are intelligent, young and vibrant and they are doing their jobs just to survive. He always tells them that their jobs should be a temporary thing and advises them to do it with a smile and not feel sorry for themselves, because he used to do it with a smile and knew that his determination would get him to the top one day.
On Monday Tichaawa stood on the stage to receive a Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Kwazulu Natal in Durban. This married father of a six-year-old daughter and one-year-old son said while he felt a sense of fulfillment at his graduation ceremony, he knew that there was more for him to do. His aim is to build a society where we provide meaningful education and he has to help work towards that.
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