Newsmaker – Qiniso Ngiba:?Model pupil

2014-01-12 14:00

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Star pupil is proof that hard work and discipline pay off

When Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga praised Qiniso Ngiba?–?and his granny?–?for his outstanding matric results on television on Monday night, the soft-spoken 16-year-old from Ndwedwe, north of Durban, was blown away.

Qiniso told City Press this week: “I knew that I was in the national top 10 and my hopes were high, but I was completely unprepared for this. I was so stunned. Even now it still doesn’t seem real.”

Interviewed on Wednesday at his grandparents’ Umsunduze, Ndwedwe, home, Qiniso still looked overwhelmed by Motshekga’s tribute to his hard work and that of his paternal grandmother, Ritta Ngiba.

The teenager has lived with his grandparents since his policeman father, Maxwell, was shot dead in 1998.

Ritta (65), who runs a crèche near the home that the family has lived in for 30 years, burst into tears when Qiniso’s result was announced.

So did her husband, Themba (73), a retired driver who stayed at home while she accompanied Qiniso on his?–?and her?–?first flight to Pretoria.

“I just couldn’t stop crying. I was so proud,” said Ritta.

Themba, who couldn’t make the trip because he had lost his ID, was equally choked with emotion.

“I sat here in the house crying, watching the television. Then everybody started calling to congratulate us,” he said.

The slightly built Qiniso scored above 90% in all seven subjects – and 100% in accounting.

What makes his achievement more remarkable is that his Lihlithemba Technical High School lost almost three months’ teaching time because of a boycott sparked by the conduct of the previous principal, Nana Gcabashe.

The aspirant chemical engineer?–?he has applied to study at the University of the Witwatersrand this year?–attributes his success to “dedication, hard work and prayer”, and the support and grounding he has received from his grandparents, who are now retired, and his teachers.

“Our teachers are totally dedicated to their jobs. In our matric year, we started at 7am and finished at 4pm every day. They were there on time every day. We don’t take holidays and they are there teaching throughout.”

Qiniso spent less than three months in Grade 8 before being promoted to Grade 9. He came first at the end of that year and put in some serious hours himself.

His daily routine saw him at school?–?a 45-minute walk on gravel roads?–?by 7am.

After school, he would walk straight home, have a snack and start studying.

His grandmother said: “That was his routine. Straight home from school, some bread and tea, and then studying until bedtime. No television. In this house, I own the TV, not him.

“You see other children around here sitting on the road, drinking, smoking whoonga, fighting. Not him. This boy studies. That is his life.”

Lihlithemba acting principal Tulani Zwane taught Qiniso physical science from Grade 8. He was at the school on Wednesday preparing duty rosters for the academic year, which starts next week.

Zwane’s matric teachers had just finished teaching the 183 Grade 12 students who officially start next week.

For the past few years, they have been teaching the Grade?12 syllabus in Grade 11, so that the matric year focuses mainly on revision. It works.

Zwane said: “Qiniso is a brilliant boy. He has never been to a Model C school, yet he beat so many students from advantaged schools.

“He has represented us in the Science Olympiad and in other national maths and science competitions, and beaten students from advantaged schools.

“In the Science Olympiad, Qiniso and his classmates – Njabulo Ngcobo and Nomasonto Mayendisa, who got five As – came second in the country.

“Qiniso and his classmates have done this school proud and will continue to do so,” said the acting school principal.

Seven distinctions not good enough

Zandile Mbonxa. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi

Zandile Mbonxa (18) found out this week that she’d obtained seven distinctions in matric. But she’s not excited about her results.

Instead, the teenager from Orange Farm, Joburg, is disappointed that she cannot pursue her dream profession: medicine.

“I wanted to apply to more universities, but we didn’t have the money. So I applied to UP [University of Pretoria] and Wits, and when I wrote the [benchmarking] tests, my marks weren’t so great.

“I was too focused on my year-end marks. Now both universities won’t take me based on those benchmarking tests,” she says.

But it’s not all despair for the Leshata Secondary School graduate. She has been given a bursary from the department of agriculture to study veterinary science at UP.

Last year, Mbonxa – who got distinctions for maths and science – sometimes spent up to 14 hours a day at school because there was no electricity at home.

When she had to be at home and the lights were out, she studied by candlelight.

Mbonxa was brought up by her aunt Dinah Veteza, who has been confined to a wheelchair for years. Veteza has taken care of her sister’s two children since they were babies, and has supported them entirely with her disability grant.

Mbonxa’s parents live elsewhere in Gauteng.

“[My aunt] has made sure I have all I need for school. But there were tough times when she couldn’t afford a candle when there were power outages and I had to go to houses in the neighbourhood to ask to study there.”

Sometimes, Mbonxa says, she wanted to give up and feared she would succumb to the temptations that some of her peers were succumbing to. Instead, she talked to her aunt about her fears and feelings, and after being encouraged, carried on studying. – Athandiwe Saba

 Success among the flames

Ntwanano Salani never gave up. Picture: Bram lammers

While her family and friends celebrated the 2012 festive season, Ntwanano Salani locked herself in her room and studied maths.

The 17-year-old was determined to get a head start before beginning matric in January last year.

Then, just months before her final exams, Malamulele in Limpopo erupted: violent protests shut down her town and her school.

She and her Shingwedzi Secondary classmates couldn’t even write their preparatory exams.

But her December sacrifices came in handy.

“It was not easy doing it all by myself but I was determined and not prepared to give up. I prefer studying by myself as friends can mess it up for one sometimes, and this was demonstrated after a study group we formed collapsed in June,” she said.

“Although I support the community’s protests because of the underdevelopment we can all see in Malamulele, I did not believe it should affect schooling.”

She said some teachers held “secret classes” attended by “only a few of us” while Malamulele burnt.

When the protests ended, Salani suffered another blow: her grandfather, with whom she enjoyed a close relationship, died just two days before her first exam.

She honoured her grandfather’s memory, though, and this week she learnt she’d scored distinctions in mathematics, life orientation, geography, Xitsonga, English and life sciences.

She had been hoping to study medicine at Wits, but wasn’t accepted because her provisional results were not good enough.

She has been accepted for pharmacy at the institution, though, and is looking around to see if her latest marks are good enough to get her a place at another medical school. – Poloko Tau

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