ANC struggle veteran Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu would be turning 100 years in 2018 just like Nelson Mandela. She was born in the village Camama in the Tsomo in the Eastern Cape.
Despite missing much school to take care of her siblings, Sisulu excelled academically and as result she was awarded a four-year high school scholarship at Mariazell College in Matatiele, Eastern Cape.
After completing her years at the college in 1939, she opted to go to work, to help support her family.
Following the death of both her parents, Sisulu had to provide for her siblings.
Mariazel mission school was her second home.
During holidays she would not go home, but instead she would work on the farm to get some extra money. She later became involved in politics fighting against the racist apartheid system.
She recalled how the apartheid education system disadvantaged the black people.
“The schools were not run for the favour of black people in South Africa. In fact, to us it was another way of depriving our children proper education. For instance, in 1958 we do not see the reason why we were changed from normal universal education. Bantu education … that itself was apartheid system that was depriving our children proper education and there were subjects that they were not allowed to take in their schools; Engineering, for instance. Our children would not have skills from that department.”
In 2010, Mama Albertina Sisulu approached one of the teachers at the college which is now known as Mariazell Secondary School, Mammoma Ralake to check the state of affairs at the school.
Ralake told SABC News about the conversation she had with Mama Albertina.
“She wanted to find out if Mariazel is still the same; how is Mariazel; what do the children eat for lunch, for supper. And then I told her that children here at Mariazel eat eggs on Sunday, cheese; that is at breakfast and when hearing that children here eats eggs, she was surprised and then she said with her eyebrows raised … She said if girls eat eggs they will like boys, and we were laughing about that.”
Ralake says Albertina Sisulu showed motherly love. “One other thing I noticed about her she was a lady. She was not glamorous, but she was simple and smart. Everything about her was simple and she was looking parental. She was motherly.”
Mariazel Secondary school ‘s mission administrator, Vivian Kok has described Mama Albertina Sisulu as a hard worker who was passionate about education.
Kok has called on government to invest in the school and also declare it as a tourism destination.
“Many people can come here and experience what Mama Albertina Sisulu experienced; what other people like Terror Lekota, like Angie Motshekga experienced at this school. This is a renowned institute. It’s an institute of high standards but the only way that can happen and continue is when the government becomes actively part of it.”
Albertina Sisulu loved her family, her children and her country. But one thing she never forgot was the day she married struggle veteran, Walter Sisulu.
“The day we got married was the day I was emancipated as the woman. There was no difference between him and me because here in the house we used to do the same work. We were equals from the beginning ; going in and out jail up to the last case of Treason trial being the only woman among 15 men, not fighting for my own interest, for my family, but for the people of South Africa as whole.”
Teachers and students at the school have described Sisulu as a galant leader who not only left an indelible mark on the history of their school but on the world as well.