Indian Stalwart Passes Away

Mr C. Kuppusami
103 year old, Mr. Kuppusami  (11 Oct 1913 – 12 May 2016)

Durban:  The South African Indian community mourns the loss of former cultural and education advocate, Mr. Candasami Kuppusami who was core to many  transformations within cultural, social and educational areas within the Indian community.

In 1955, Mr. Kuppusami was the first Indian to be appointed Inspector of Schools in the country.  His role within the Indian education sector included the tasks of identifying the various facets of the problem of suitably qualified teachers.

The work that Mr Kuppusami committed his life to had assisted greatly towards the improvement and stabilization of Indian teacher education services during the apartheid era.

Career & Accolades
During his career, Kuppusami has won numerous international awards and honours.  His latest accolade was just last year at the age of 102.  A lifetime achievement award was bestowed on him from the Malaysia-Mauritius-Durban Socio-Cultural Exchange in December December 2015.

The late Mr Kuppusami matriculated in 1933 and successfully completed his Teachers Couse in 1935 and continued his tertiary education with a Bachelors degree in 1940, where he graduated alongside, Govan Mbeki.  Two years later, he completed his Diploma in Education, in 1946 a Masters in Education and in 1947 he completed a BA in Psychology .

A Doyen of Tamil Culture

A founder member and the longest standing member of the South African Tamil Federation, he was also responsible for spearheading the numerous Tamil Teacher Programs that the South African Tamil Federation held in the past.  He played a major role in revising the ‘old and outdated’ constitution of the SATF some years back.

candasami kuppusami
Mr. Kuppusami with Mr. Gopinath Krishnamurthy and his father on tour in Chennai,1997

During the presidency of Mr T. Vadivelu, Mr C. Kuppusami was invited to pave the way to foster and propagate the Tamil language. Mr Kuppusami is a Tamil scholar and during his tenure as Inspector of Schools he was given the Mandate to:

  1. Introduce Tamil in the English School syllabus.
  2. Introduce part-time Matric level classes at the M.L. Sultan Technikon and       elsewhere.
  3. Facilitate requests to the Joint Matriculation Board to include Tamil as a third language.
  4. Make efforts to standardize the teaching of Tamil by setting up an examination board ‘THAMIZH KAZHAGAM’  – whose duty was to compile a syllabus, conduct   examinations, and issue certificates of competence both to teachers and pupils.

He was also responsible for the drafting and the layout of the first Tamil Alphabet card that the South African Tamil Federation printed and distributed at no cost to all Tamil organizations in the country to utilize as teaching aids.

Whilst still with the then Department of Indian Education, he was instrumental in convincing the Department to commence Tamil as a language at secondary schools.  In this vein, and also mainly through his efforts,  the first Tamil class commenced at the Brindhaven Secondary School, at Montford in Chatsworth with the combined efforts of the Tamil Advancement Society.  Mr Kuppusami immediately managed to get the Department to dispatch a teacher for this subject which started with 32 students.  This centenarian was one of the greatest Tamil scholars that worked selflessly throughout his life.  

Volumes could be written about this doyen  and his contribution to our language, culture and the arts. Mr Kuppusami worked with other notable Tamil greats such as Messrs R.G. Pillay, P. Paruman, P.I. Devan, N.C. Naidoo, T. Vadivelu, R.N. Nadar, J.R. Devar, S.R. Devar, M. Anban, Tony Iyavoo, Saiva Pulavar Vidwan K.C. Gounden, M.S. (Subri) Pillay, K.S. Naicker and many others.

Kuppusami, A Sastri College Alumnus

With their graduation from the college they were the first group of teacher’s, lawyers, doctors and professionals in the Indian community.

Sastri College Alumni
Just last year Mr Kuppusami attended the first reunion with fellow Sastri College alumni.                   Image Credit: Nikita Chinniah

The Sastri College Alumni Association held its first reunion for octogenarian, nonagenarian and even one centenarian student who graduated from Sastri College in the early 1940’s, at the Sastri College last year.

The gathering of over 80 former students who are older than eighty, were accompanied by their partners to celebrate the college’s 85th anniversary, a heady and exciting evening of shared memories, recollections of iconic teachers, many pranks played on each other & on teachers so many years ago.

A Wordsmith Of Note

He is also an author of numerous books within the fields of Education, Tamil Literature, Hindu Temples and Indians in South Africa.

tamil history
Image Credit: Gopinath Krishnamurthy

Some of the books the late stalwart authored include this unique book, ‘Tamil Culture in South Africa‘ on South Africa and other books like

  1.  Indian Education in Natal (1860-1946)
  2.  Three Pillars of Tamil
  3.  Valluvar to Vallalar
  4.  Religions, Customs and Practices of South African Indians
  5.  Hand Book of Tamil Names
  6.  Traditional Hindu Temples in South Africa
  7. Pioneer Footprints: Growth of Indian Education in South Africa, 1860-1977
  8. The History and Origins of Umgeni Road Temple, Durban
  9. Autobiography: Down Memory Lane

Family Life

He had great respect for all religions and cultures. He himself was a deeply religious man and a devotee of Sri Swami Sivananda.  He was a lifelong vegetarian and even at the age of 103 he body was completely untouched by disease or illness. He never took any medication or underwent surgery. He rapidly and suddenly declined in the last two weeks of his life after having difficulty swallowing (due to his age) and the lack of eating and drinking resulted in weakness that finally overcame him.

His 7 grandchildren were his life. He prayed daily for them. Some of them are based in Sweden, Norway and Germany and he corresponded regularly with them via airmail.  He celebrated 64 years of marriage with his wife Visalatchie.

All who encountered him were immediately struck by the relationship they both shared. Family, friends ad colleagues would often remark on how it was the ideal example of marriage.

The loving husband of the late Visalatchie, father of Chandrasegran (Sweden) and Gonam Pillay, Dhana and Krishnaveni Pillay, Sarojini and Rishi Balkaran, grandfather of Vivekan, Kosila, Preshanti, Sarushen, Rudhren, Derishta and Hevanya.

Funeral Information

The funeral service will take place on Sunday (15 May 2016).

The body will lie in state at the Umhlatuzana Temple Hall from 11am -2pm thereafter proceeding to the Clare Estate Crematorium from 3pm for cremation at 3:30pm.


About Naufal Khan

Publisher & editor of Indian Spice.

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