60-YEAR-OLD South African musician, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse is making up for lost time, by going back to school for a high school diploma he missed out in his earlier years, when his music career took centre stage.
Even students who were habitually late to class or often skipped class showed up, and now many are more responsible
Taken from the Mercury News website, Mabuse says, returning to school “is for me. But it’s not about me,” when interviewed in his Soweto home.
Some of Mabuse’s musicians were baffled when he told them he was going back to school for a Matric National Senior Certificate, but bassist and producer Victor Masondo wasn’t surprised.
“Sipho is a perfectionist,” Masondo said. “In typical Sipho style, he wants to go through the right routes and do the right thing.”
With his money, Mabuse could have hired a tutor to get him through the Matric exams. Or, with his connections, he could have found a university to take him on as a researcher.
Instead, he’s enrolled in classes offered to adults after the day of learning for younger students is complete. The public school is just around the corner from his home in Soweto, the township where he was born and raised.
Japie Masombuka, who runs the adult education program at Thaba-Jabula Secondary School, said he asked his most famous student to give a motivational talk one afternoon. To Masombuka’s surprise, even students who were habitually late to class or often skipped class showed up, and now many are more responsible.
One of Mabuse’s classmates, 27-year-old Nikiwe Mpande, left high school to take a secretarial course and start work. She said the lack of a Matric was keeping her from getting promotions, but she didn’t seriously consider returning to school until she heard about Mabuse. He’s shown her “you’re never too old to actually finish school”.
Matseke, himself a musician and composer, tried to persuade Mabuse to stay in school back in 1969, Mabuse said. But he and the fellow classmates who had formed a band were making money and earning admiration from girls at weekend performances.
One day, his mother went looking for Mabuse at Orlando West and no one could tell her where he was. She found him and his bandmates at a tailor’s, trying on new stage costumes.
“She just said, ‘Oh, so this is your new school uniform?’” Mabuse recalled, saying she then dragged him back to school, where a teacher administered a beating.
When Mabuse has to miss class these days, he calls his teachers to apologize. He addresses teachers who are 20 years his junior as sir. And while the teachers might keep quiet when fellow students in their 20s answer their cell phones in class, Mabuse is not shy.
“I do try to instill that level of responsibility,” he said. “I would chide some of them, ‘It’s either you behave like school kids, or you behave like adults.’”
Mabuse also has been known to scold children he runs into in the streets during the day, telling them they should be in school.
Post-apartheid South Africa, Mabuse said, needs an educated public to protect its fragile democracy.
“On the continent, presidents are like kings. We cannot challenge them, because we have little knowledge,” he said.
Mabuse’s own pursuit of knowledge hit a setback last year, when he tried to take all six classes he needed to obtain his Matric. He was too impatient to listen to teachers who told him that was too heavy a load for a man with his busy schedule. He failed two classes.
This year, he’s confident he’ll pass his remaining classes. And he says he’s not embarrassed to tell people he had to try again.
He plans to go on to university to study musical anthropology.
His goal is to write a book after interviewing his elders about what has shaped traditional music in South Africa, and how those traditions still ring.
He grew up listening to his grandfather and uncles singing a traditional choral form known as scatamiya.
“Maybe I can make a contribution in how we see ourselves. How we hear ourselves,” Mabuse said.
Source: US Embassy website and MercuryNews.com.