Popular former teacher ‘Oom Si’ dies at home

 Tembile Simon Bantom
Tembile Simon Bantom

Friends and family are mourning the death of former teacher, principal, education expert and musician Tembile Simon Bantom, who died at his KwaNobuhle home on Friday.

Bantom, 88, was affectionately known as “Oom Si”.

His nephew, Sisa Tabata, 56, said Bantom’s career in education had spanned nearly four decades – from starting his teaching career in Uitenhage in 1954 to his retirement as school inspector in 1993.

He is survived by his wife Lulama, five children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Some members of his community would say that he was one of the best teachers the Uitenhage District has known,” Tabata said.

“Others would say he was a rugby lover of note, a gifted artist and educator, while others may remember him as a prominent school principal and school inspector.

“He was a father figure to me. I remember him being serious, straightforward and a no-nonsense person.

“But he became very accommodating in his old age, especially when he started having grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“He was passionate about education and the church.

“He believed the two were linked and because of that he was conservative and did not drink or smoke,”

Tabata said Bantom had been born and raised in Uitenhage and had attended St Peter’s Mission School before training as a teacher at the Hilltown Institute in Fort Beaufort.

He was also a self-taught musician.

“He was a popular saxophonist in jazz and dance music circles,” Tabata said

“He was a member of the Garden Town Jazz Club, where he performed alongside Broadly Gxoyiya. “His love for music was also realised in the Male Voice Choir in Uitenhage.”

“This gentle giant displayed his talents also in rugby, playing for Swallows Rugby Club and Eastern Province Union.”

“As a flank forward, he earned the respect of one of South Africa’s [great] halfbacks, the late Simo Mjo, who played for Fort Hare, Border and the Black Springboks.”

He said Bantom would be remembered by the many generations he had served as a teacher, principal and president of the then Uitenhage-Despatch African Teachers Union.

“We are grateful for his remarkable life and contribution to society.” His funeral service will be held at the Uniting Presbyterian Church, KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, on Saturday at 10am.


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