Stellenbosch University (SU) students and lecturing staff are grieving the loss of Dr Helena Wessels.
Dr Wessels (62), a senior lecturer in Foundation Phase Mathematics Education in the B.Ed program, passed away on 24 February 2018. Reports indicated that Dr Wessels’ demise was brought upon by a house fire which was sparked by a gas bottle.
Lydia Jacobs, a colleague, mentee and masters’ degree student of the late Dr Wessels, described her as a passionate person who had an amazing ability to see the hidden potential of her students.
“Dr Wessels was a true believer who showed compassion and love to those around her. She always made time for her students and had a strong work ethic,” said Jacobs.
Dr Wessels produced a plethora of notable works and contributed significantly to the education system when she served on various international boards and education committees to progress Mathematics education.
SU’s Faculty of Education arranged counselling sessions for students and lecturers and organised transport to the memorial service for those who wished to commemorate Dr Wessels in this way.
The funeral took place on Thursday, 8 March at the Helderberg Dutch Reformed Church in Somerset West.
Class representative of the fourth year B.Ed Foundation Phase group, Ramona Koen, said “Dr Wessels was loved dearly by all her students. Her enthusiasm and dedication to her field of expertise remain an inspiration to her students and all who knew her.
“We pinned a big cardboard sheet to the wall outside Dr Wessels’ office where students and lecturers could write messages and share fond memories.”
A book of remembrance was placed outside her office for students and lecturers to express their condolences and to share memories which celebrated Dr Wessels’ legacy. This book will be passed on to her family and her husband, prof. Dirk Wessels, who is currently recovering after being hospitalised for injuries sustained in the fire.
According to Jacobs, Dr Wessels’s classes are currently being handled by herself, Dr Bosman and Mrs le Roux, who are also lecturers at the faculty.
“Dr Wessels was not just a lecturer to us – she was a role model, a motherly figure, a mentor and a fountain of knowledge,” said Koen. “She will be sorely missed, but we will carry her legacy in our hearts and express it in our teachings.”
Photo: Ramona Koen