By Loyiso Gxothiwe
“Uncle Charles. Uncle Charles!” shouts a voice from a crowd huddled by a wide door, making their way out of church. The Uncle Charles in question is a lively figure surrounded by a group almost as spirited as him. The group, consisting of what appears to be University students and other members of the church, is exchanging testimonies and stories next to a foyer by the passage. Charlie is telling a story about his week at work and exchanging a few jokes with the group. Upon hearing and spotting the person that was calling him now making his way towards the group, he turns his head, smiles and nods in an acknowledging manner and greets his friend without pausing his story.
Nkosoxolo Mzimane, affectionately known as Charlie by those close to him, is a 24 year-old Rhodes Bachelor of Commerce graduate who lectures at GADRA Matric School and Eastcape Midlands College where he teaches Accounting, Economics and Management. According to Mzimane, his current profession is not what he foresaw for himself in the future while he was studying. But it has become a passion and source of personal and spiritual growth for him.
He sees it as something that was divinely intended for him at this point in his life. Mzimane also adds that his heart is centered on making a difference in other people’s lives and teaching helps him do this. In addition to his class work, he also volunteers for a project started by his church, River of Life, to help single women and widows who are unemployed to get skills which will make them employable or able start their own businesses.
Being from a small, rural town in the Eastern Cape, Mzimane says that he feels a sense of relation to his students, most of which live in Grahamstown’s townships and are sometimes the same age as him or older. “Encountering different people from various or similar backgrounds and having to deal with all of this makes aware how similar we are as human beings and it makes you more empathetic about other people’s plights,” he said, smiling widely. “Teaching will make you really care about the state of the world and its future.”
In an economic climate where a university degree does not guarantee one a job, Mzimane says what helped him secure employment quickly after he graduated was hard work and his openness to people. According to him, this helped as he could easily be aware of available posts and people could trust him easier because they know him. One of the posts that he initially took was an internship which quickly turned to permanent deployment because of his thorough work ethic.
Mzimane is at first encounter one of the friendliest, talkative, attentive and fun people you will ever meet. His friends (who span the width and breadth of Rhodes University and Grahamstown) say this is because he really is all those things. Armand, his friend who refers to him as ‘Uncle Charles’, says that he addresses him that way because he fits all the good attributes uncles possess.
“I guess I just love people,” Mzimane said, chuckling heartily. “If you are going to be around me you will either love people too or you will be forced to.”