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South Africa: From struggling in grade 10 to school’s top student in matric

Masiphumelele High School (Cape Town), teen will begin studying mechanical engineering at University of Cape Town (UCT) this year.

“I knew what I wanted and I was willing to put in the hard work to get it,” said Masiphumelele High School matriculant Lwando Melamane.

Melamane matriculated as the top student in his school, getting six distinctions in Maths, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Geography, Life Orientation and Xhosa. He was just two percent shy of getting a distinction for English as well.

“When I was in grade 10 I was not doing so well but there were three students in my class that were so clever. I told myself that is where I want to be,” said Melamane. “I was not reaching them until I pushed myself to work harder.”

Melamane was raised by a single mother who works for Pick ‘n Pay. She says she knew her son was going to pass but did not expect him to do so well.

He used to live with his mother in a two-room shack next to a tavern but subsequently moved to his uncle in a much quieter part of Masiphumelele.

“I did not like living far from my mom but I couldn’t study there because the house is small and it is next to a tavern so it was always noisy,” said Melamane.

He has been accepted to study mechanical engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was accepted at three other universities.

“Mechanical engineering is my first love. It is what I have always wanted and to be accepted at one of best universities in the country is a dream come true,” said Melamane.

His classmate and study partner Aphinda Jabe obtained four distinctions in Maths, Physical Sciences, Xhosa and Life Orientation. She has been accepted into Chemical Engineering at UCT.

“I am very happy that my hard work paid off … I want to make something of myself and my marks give me the opportunity to do that. I can now became what I want to be. I always wanted to make medicine and create something that will improve other people’s lives,” said Jabe.

Principal Mncedi Nelson Mafrica told GroundUp that even though the 57,5% pass rate is not high, it is better than what they expected.

The school had embarked on a turnaround campaign after a massive drop in the matric pass rate from 71% in 2016 to 48% in 2017. The campaign was to change the 48% to 84% in the following school year. It did not reach its target, achieving a pass rate of 57,5% in 2018.

Mafrica said last year’s matric class had the challenge of catching up with their peers after a “massive curriculum backlog” in 2016 due to disruptive gang violence in the area which some of the learners were involved in. This also resulted in poor class attendance.

“In the September 2018 trial results our pass rate was in the bottom forties and we had to come up with ways to make sure we improved in the final term. We did camps where the students slept at the school even during the exams,” said Mafrica.

He said the school received support from the Department of Education in 2017, but it ended in 2018 due to the improved pass rate. “I feel like that support should have at least continued for three years and stopped once the school is in a better position. One year is not much, the support is still needed,” he said.

Article written by  for GroundUp

© 2019 GroundUp. 
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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