Never too old to learn

June 1st, 2012

By Nomfundo Manyathi

Three students undergoing postgraduate legal training are proof that one is never too old to learn. All three students are enrolled at the School for Legal Practice at the Law Society of South Africa’s learning division, Legal Education and Development (LEAD).

Sixty-nine-year-old Pierre Steyn enrolled at the School for Legal Practice at LEAD in Pretoria in January 2012 and is due to complete his studies in June. Mr Steyn told De Rebus that he was in the military for 30 years and the last position he occupied before retiring was as managing director of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric). Mr Steyn was also previously the head of intelligence functions of the South African Defence Force and the former Secretary of Defence.

After Mr Steyn left Sabric, he enrolled full-time at the University of South Africa for a four-year LLB at the age of 65. Mr Steyn said that he decided to register for an LLB because he was ‘not the type to stay at home and attend to the garden after retirement’.

Mr Steyn said that his younger classmates kept him young at heart, adding that they challenged him every day. He said that it was ‘rejuvenating’ to be in a class of young people.

Mr Steyn said that his only worry was that no one would want to hire him after he completed his studies as he would be ‘too old’. He added that he hoped to continue working until he was 75 to 80-years-old.

He said that his only challenge was that his memory was not as strong as it was previously. ‘I am astounded by how the youngsters will hear something today and are able to recite it tomorrow. For me, sometimes it seems like I have not heard of it before in my life,’ he said.

Noah Monyamore, who is turning 60 in November, is also based at LEAD in Pretoria. He is a preacher by profession. He said that his classmates call him ‘Papa’, adding that he could not usually take part in the youngsters’ discussions because they were ‘always talking about girls’.

Mr Monyamore said that he had decided to study again because he had money left over after paying off his debt. He hopes to become an advocate one day.

Mr Monyamore said that the one challenge he faced was that some of the things being taught are things that he studied years ago, adding that it had taken him 30 years to complete his LLB degree, which he started in 1980 and completed in 2010. He said that, because of this, he was usually quiet in class and the younger learners participated more because the topics discussed were still fresh in their minds. He stressed the point that he was passing all his examinations and the reason it had taken him so long to complete his LLB degree was because he was working and studying at the same time, and also because it was difficult to become a lawyer in the apartheid era.

The manager at the School for Legal Practice in Pretoria, Ursula Hartzenberg, told De Rebus that she was ‘inspired, honoured and encouraged’ to have these two individuals at her school. She said that they had taken leadership positions among their fellow students and they shared a keen interest in learning.

Fifty-seven-year-old Siphiwo Mfeketo is enrolled at the School for Legal Practice at LEAD’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University campus in Port Elizabeth. He enrolled in January 2012 for a seven-month course, which he is scheduled to complete in July 2012.

Mr Mfeketo is an independent insurance broker by profession. He said that the reason he chose to ‘go back to school’ was because insurance brokers were required to obtain credits by the Financial Services Board and he could receive these by obtaining a law degree or by becoming an attorney or an accountant. He plans to do a Master of Business Administration degree after completing the course at LEAD.

Mr Mfeketo said that he had learnt a lot from the younger learners, adding that he has often been told that he is an inspiration to them. He added that his biggest challenge was managing his time, as he was a businessman as well as a family man.

Nomfundo Manyathi,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (June) DR 6.

De Rebus