Pupils proud of Idols winner
There was the occasional giggle that broke loose in the silent hall of the Maritzburg Christian School when the school choir took to the stage to perform at the year’s closing assembly on Friday morning. These aspirant choristers had every reason to be excited. Not only were the Christmas holidays minutes away, but their choir teacher, Nomalungelo “Noma” Khumalo, had just won Idols SA – with more than a little help from them, her choir. Her colleagues have described Khumalo – who in her matric year won the same school’s Christian Character Award, for her “diligence in her faith, moral excellence, self-control, perseverance and godliness” – as a very caring and compassionate person. (Yes, she teaches at the same school where she matriculated.) Khumalo may be a woman of few words, but she is far from a stranger to the spotlight. While still at school she travelled to Britain with the prestigious Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Youth Choir, coming second in an international eisteddfod. She is the first woman to win Idols in seven years. The competition is now in its 12th season. And today, on the year’s closing day, Khumalo is not in the school hall to watch her protégés perform. The 22-year-old, who teaches isiZulu and art, is in Johannesburg for a recording contract with Gallo Records, which she won, along with a cool R1.2 million in prizes, for shading out fellow KwaZulu-Natal entrant Thami Shobede in the final. The choir that Khumalo trains launches into its routine, in her absence led by Grade 9 pupil Andiswa Sabela. The choristers work their way into a tears-in-the-eyes rendition of Johnny Clegg’s Asimbonanga, and then wrap up on a lighter note. With assembly done, choir members Tameqa Petersen (11) and her Grade 5 colleague Zama Zungu head home with their reports in hand. The two take pride in being among the group of pupils at the school who “pushed” Khumalo to enter Idols, and say they kept encouraging everyone they could to vote for their teacher during the gruelling Idols heats. The heats saw 83 million votes cast for contestants this season.
“Miss [Khumalo] asked us if she should enter again, and we said yes!” said Tameqa.
“We told her she must enter again and that we would vote for her so that she could win.”
Convinced that she would win, Tameqa and her family had travelled with Zama and other classmates to watch Khumalo during the last heats. “We went to Johannesburg to support her,” said Zama. “It was very exciting. We are very proud of our teacher.”
Khumalo’s 13-year-old brother Menzi, who is a Grade 7 pupil, also at Maritzburg Christian School, is still dumbfounded by his sister’s sudden fame. He says he and his three siblings made regular trips to Johannesburg with their parents to cheer her on.
“I’m very proud of my sister ... We went to Johannesburg almost every weekend to support her. It was so exciting.”
Khumalo’s father, a magistrate, and her mother, a nurse, were also in the audience last Sunday supporting their daughter’s second attempt to take the Idols crown. (She had lost out in 2013.)
However, the parents were not ready for all the attention that comes with a win. They found themselves overwhelmed by a flood of media requests for interviews and neighbours’ visits to congratulate them on their daughter’s success. As a result, they have spent the past week “trying to run away from the newspaper people” according to little brother Menzi.
“Yoh! The phones don’t stop ringing. They are calling my mum and dad minute by minute,” Menzi enthused.
Khumalo’s friend and fellow student teacher, Charlize Greyling, was as excited as her pupils at the win: “The whole school has been behind her [Khumalo] every step of the way. We did as much marketing as we could.”
“Every week we would show the footage from the heats, and also put pictures from the weekend’s Idols on the school website, and encourage everybody to vote,” said Greyling.
“In the early part of Idols she would perform at the weekend and be at school again on Monday. Noma is so 100% legit,” she added.
During the latter part of the contest, a locum teacher had to stand in for Khumalo (who is also completing her teaching studies through Unisa) to enable her to focus on Idols.
In her matric yearbook Khumalo wrote: “I have a dream of singing in Idols ... It almost sounds impossible to win.”
Some dreams, it seems, do come true.
HITTING THE HIGH NOTES Idols winner Nomalungelo ‘Noma’ Khumalo