Succeeding despite the odds

2014-01-18 00:00

THIS year, I fell in love again.

It was not a falling in love in the traditional sense, but instead with the belief that we all have the potential to be great, no matter the background we’re born into.

Last year, my inspiration was Mbusiseni Kubeka, who sat for his matric exams in 2011.

This year, I am inspired by matriculant Lwazi Shezi.

These two modest boys, who come from humble families and who attended disadvantaged schools, excelled in matric despite the odds.

It was at the Durban ICC matric ceremony earlier this month that I met Lwazi (16), the focus of a story that appeared in The Witness last week, which described him as a “home-alone maths whiz”.

Lwazi managed to score 100% in maths and accounting, despite living alone in a drug-infested neighbourhood in Umlazi since he was in Grade 10.

In spite of this, he was crowned the top maths pupil in the province and third in the country.

Lwazi attended a township school, Velabahleke High in Umlazi, and he achieved 10 distinctions.

Lwazi’s father is unemployed and the family survives on his mother’s teaching salary. He has other siblings and theirs is a real hand-to-mouth existence.

Despite these odds, Lwazi was inspired to succeed and is, in turn, proving to be an inspiration to others.

He’s now looking forward to studying actuarial science at UCT after he received a sponsor. He will soon realise his dreams.

In 2012, I also had the privilege of interviewing Mbusiseni Kubeka, a boy from rural Escourt, who went to a school that didn’t have any amenities such as a science laboratory or a library.

Kubeka had to borrow books for extra reading.

In his neighbourhood there was no access to the Internet. His dad died when he was 11 years old and he was raised by his mother, who earned money by making brooms out of the leftover grass that was cultivated from nearby fields.

But Kubeka stood out in the class of 2011 and managed to score 100% in maths and science.

He was capped the top physical science pupil in KwaZulu-Natal, despite the fact that he had never stepped into a science laboratory.

Just like Lwazi, Kubeka did it despite all the odds.

This year, Kubeka, is a second-year chemical engineering student at UKZN.

In an education system where pupils need only 40% in three subjects, including home language, and 30% in another three subjects to pass, Lwazi and Kubeka could have settled for being average. But, their drive and determination would not allow them to settle for second best and now they have a bright future.

Lwazi and Kubeka have one thing in common — they yearned for more.

They woke up earlier than most to get to school, pushed themselves and didn’t make any excuses.

I saw how the parents of these boys were proud of their sons’ achievements.

The shimmer of hope was what I saw in their eyes.

And their sons’ triumph is a ticket out of poverty for the two families.

Kubeka’s mother, who was overjoyed by her son’s success, told me: “Sometimes when you’re poor, you don’t expect any good to happen to you. But God has shown that he loves me.”

I think what these boys have taught me is that all things are possible, and where we come from should never define who we are.

It is no secret that our Department of Basic Education is facing many woes — our standard of education is questionable.

But not all is doom and gloom, there are stories of hope — like the ones of Lwazi and Kubeka — who remind us that with a bit of zeal and dedication, we can be and do anything.

The next time I think it cannot be done, I’ll think of Lwazi and Kubeka, who did it even though all the odds were against them.

• Gabisile Ngcobo is a reporter at The Witness.

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