It took Reverend John Strugnell more than four decades to get to his alma mater. The Unisa Alumni Relations Office had the pleasure of welcoming Strugnell of the Crossway Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia, to its premises on 27 July 2015.
As Strugnell was attending the Baptist World Conference in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, it was a sho’t left to Muckleneuk, Pretoria, where he spent a few hours of his time with Lynette van Niekerk, Events Coordinator in the Unisa Institutional Advancement Directorate.
Strugnell says he had hoped to visit his alma mater since 1973, when he received his BA degree in absentia. While he could not walk on stage clad in graduation regalia and receive his degree certificate, and visualise what could have been.
Strugnell shares the dilemma of graduating in absentia with many other international students that register to study with the university. Thousands of qualification certificates have been posted by Unisa to various destinations around the world, and each of these graduates has been denied the privilege of attending the actual ceremony.
Strugnell conceded though that the graduation is only one important milestone along the study way. “The journey begins with chiselling through tons of books, day and night, to extract important information for assignments and to prepare for examinations.”
He recalls that there was a point where he had to sit to write two to three exams consecutively per day at the South African Embassy in Canberra. Luckily, the embassy was in close proximity to his home.
Being already an ordained pastor when he studied through Unisa, and he could fund his way through. He says that studying through distance education was demanding and these same demands were placed on his young family at the time. “I was lucky because my wife who passed away in 2012, was understanding, and, in the end, we managed to produce three university graduates of our own.
“Today, I am still working as a pastor and I am a firm believer that education opens doors to many opportunities in life especially in the Christian ministry. You need to be educated because this is all a part of having a sense of purpose and a deeper sense of making a difference. Don’t give up! Keep studying and don’t move your eyes from the goal! There is a real sense that Unisa is part of my story, hence the importance of my visit.”
*Written by Busisiwe Mahlangu