In a bid to keep her almost decade-long promise to a young matric pupil, a fitness specialist and wellbeing coach from Strubens Valley, west of Johannesburg, plans to run the equivalent of seven marathons to pay off the teenager’s R70 000 final-year school fees.
Nickey Seger, 48, a former South African Navy diver, met the 18-year-old Nellie Khuzwayo when she was still a little child and says she formed an “immediate bond” with her.
Segar has been covering Nellie’s school fees for the past 10 years.
Speaking to News24, Seger said she had been worked as a diving instructor at Scuba City in Ferndale in 2005 when she met Goodwill Khuzwayo, Nellie’s father, with whom she struck up a close friendship.
“Goodwill had shown me the ropes at the company we worked at. I came there as a newbie, not knowing much. Goodwill had been working at the company for a very long time. He never knew me at all, but he made it his mission to teach me everything about the business. We formed a friendship like no other, and I’m eternally grateful for him,” she said.
Tragedy struck when Goodwill was permanently disabled following a taxi accident on 26 June 2001, said Seger.
“He was travelling to Zimbabwe to visit family when the taxi’s tyres burst. The taxi rolled and Goodwill fell out the vehicle, and was caught under the taxi. He had suffered head and spinal injuries,” said Seger.
She said, soon after the accident, he had started losing his spark for life and for people, and no longer carried that positive smile on his face.
“It broke my heart to see my friend was… no longer seeing the positiveness in life. I said to him life can change, and he said, ‘How is life going to change, look at me, I can’t do anything, I’ve got a little girl I need to take care of. What is her future going to be like?’ Hearing him say that was heart-breaking,” said Seger.
Inspired by his resilience, Seger wrote to the popular Johannesburg radio station 947, hoping that her colleague would be chosen during the broadcaster’s annual 947 Xmas Wish list.
After three years of reaching out to 947, her persistence finally paid off.
The radio station kindly agreed to grant Goodwill’s wish, sending Nellie, who was in Grade 2 at the time, to MacLaren College, a private school in Cosmo City. The station agreed to cover school fees for a year.
While Nellie thrived in her new environment and loved her new school, unfortunately, Goodwill was unable to cover her school fees for the remainder of her education and had no choice but to send her back to a public school.
“When he told me this, I made it my mission to tell him I’ll handle the school fees. Nellie was then moved back to MacLaren College in Grade 4. I’ve since been covering her fees and have promised the family I will cover the fees until she matriculated,” she said.
“It was important to me to help Nellie with her schooling because education is the key to unlocking the world. It helps us in all aspects of our lives. To me, education is the gateway to success. Success can be achieved when people have knowledge, skills, and attitude. All these things can be gained only with the help of education.
Due to the unforeseen and devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected Seger’s business, she has been unable to cover Nellie’s school fees on her own. But she isn’t planning on giving up.
To raise the R75 600 school fees, she is pledging to complete 14 consecutive half marathons, a total distance of 295.4km, to get Nellie to the “finish line” of her school career. It will begin on Tuesday 1 February and end on 14 February, symbolically, in front of Nellie’s school, Ruimsig Montessori.
The young bubbly matriculant said she planned on studying to become a nurse one day.
“I want to serve my community, that’s my passion,” she added.
Since the launch of her fundraising campaign, more than R28 000 has been donated so far, through contributions from donors both locally and internationally, which will fund Nellie’s future.
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