The sight of the graves of his family members dotted around the homestead prompted Eastern Cape learner Lomso Dumezweni to enquire about the cause of their deaths.
On being told that many of them had died from chronic illnesses he resolved he was going to study medicine to ensure people in his village didn’t die unnecessarily from illnesses that could be treated.
This week the matriculant from Nyanga Secondary School in Ncobo, Eastern Cape was among the top 30 matric achievers invited by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to the announcement of the national matric results at Vodaworld, Midrand in Gauteng.
Motshekga said the learners who came from public schools around the country were the pride of the nation who had excelled from 700 000 matric pupils who sat for the national exam in 2019.
The department of basic education said a total of 790 405 candidates sat for 147 question papers in 7 416 examination centres nationwide last year.
She said the country should not be afraid of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as this crop of learners was going to carry the country through the upcoming revolution through the skills they will acquire in higher education.
Dumezweni was still in bed at his home in Sheshegu, Dutywa when the call inviting him to the ceremony came through.
After his father broke the good news to him he rushed out into the street to celebrate, edging him closer to his dream of being a doctor.
He is now going to study medicine at the University of the Western Cape, far away from the tough conditions of his village.
He was so determined to pass matric with flying colours that he only visited his home village three times during the entire academic year, opting to stay at the school hostel 75km away to put in extra work.
The Eastern Cape is one of the poorest provinces in the country, dogged by a lack of resources in schools.
Dumezweni and his colleagues were not left untouched by this dire lack of resources, having to make do with a science laboratory with barely any chemicals or tools to conduct experiments.
But this did not deter him. He used his cellular phone to download experiments from the Internet. Dumezweni is worried that his lack of access to computers may be a serious challenge in his first year of university study.
“That is a challenge many rural learners face. We have very little access to computers and I have heard that in varsity they use computers every day. But I am ready for the challenge,” he said.
In KwaZulu-Natal Bhekamandaba Makhonza’s matric year was severely disrupted by the hospitalisation of his mother which affected his concentration. “I thought we were going to lose her. The situation at home wasn’t great. I still don’t know how I did it,” said Makhonza.
But he was not about to let this factor stand in the way of his dream to study actuarial science. His school was also dogged by a lack of resources which frustrated his efforts to master scientific experiments.
But help came through his teacher who upon recognising his burning desire to succeed and dire family circumstances, gave Makhonza his old, broken laptop. Makhonza got the old machine fixed and used it to download experiments and research information critical to his studies.
In addition, he revised by tackling past matric papers. His school Edendale Technical High School near Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal is also plagued by a lack of resources.
But he is now on top of the world after being among the top matric performers nationally. He is planning to study actuarial science. “My passion is in mathematics,” he said.
Blessing Tsakane Chauke from Dendron Secondary School in Mogwadi, Limpopo, also overcame the odds of studying in a rural school to make the cut.
Motshekga praised the school for always having a learner in the top matriculants through the years despite their location in a rural area.
Chauke said discipline and working hard throughout the year prepared her for the tough end of year exams. She is going to study chemical engineering “to broaden my skills and knowledge to become a professional engineer.”
Greta Catharina Kupershoek from- Hoërskool Middelburg in the coal mining town of Mpumalanga said she has now set her sights on studying actuarial science after acing her matric. She said her secret to success was balancing her very active life as prefect and sports fanatic with her studies.
Mukona Martin Ranzida said being a learner at Mbilwi Secondary School in Sibasa, Limpopo, encouraged him to work hard because he didn’t want to be one to dent the school’s reputation as a national top performer.
“Our teachers also pushed us to work hard. We went to school on Saturdays and during holidays and that really helped,” he said.
This article was made possible by the generous support of Vodacom SA.