Philippi's 'bright shining star' is Western Cape's top science achiever

2017-01-12 22:06
The top physical science matriculant in the Western Cape, Siphelele Xabendlini from the Browns Farms informal settlement in Philippi. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The top physical science matriculant in the Western Cape, Siphelele Xabendlini from the Browns Farms informal settlement in Philippi. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Siphelele Xabendlini believes determination and dedication are all that's needed to succeed.

And he should know – the Philippi teen is the first matric pupil from a previously disadvantaged school to ever make it to the top spot for physical science in the Western Cape.

He achieved full marks in the exam.

"I live in a shack, and I didn't have a laptop with fancy programmes from the internet to help me. I worked hard and studied only with my text books, Paper Video [educational resource] and The Answer series," a dapper-looking Xabendlini, 18, said at the Western Cape 2016 National Senior Certificate Awards ceremony on Thursday.

"I told myself: winning is not some special rule that is reserved for the lucky among us. Winning is a reward you receive when you have put in the hard work, when no one is watching. Winning is for champion attitudes and champion hearts."

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Xabendlini is the second-youngest of eight children. He moved to Cape Town in 2014 at the insistence of his father, who is a minibus taxi driver.

"He believed that the education system in the Eastern Cape was not as strong as the one here. I transferred and enrolled at Phandulwazi Secondary School for Grade 10," he explained.

Not satisfied with 88%

His mother, a domestic worker, and his siblings stayed behind while he and his father moved to the Browns Farm informal settlement.

Xabendlini was initially not particularly interested in physical science, but a teacher encouraged him to choose the subject.

"I achieved a level six in Grade 10 and started to love it. But maths has always been my favourite," Xabendlini said.

In his September assessments, he scored 88%, but wasn't satisfied.

He attended science and maths programmes in Philippi from Friday to Sunday, and spent every weekday afternoon with his books.

"I worked hard and made extra effort, but didn't expect to get full marks in the final exam. I was happy and I had made my parents very happy."

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On Thursday, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer described him as a "bright shining star".

"He decided that he would reach for the stars, and refused to let circumstances or events ruin his opportunities," she said.

Funding hurdle

"He is the only learner, to date, coming from a previously disadvantaged school to have achieved the top position in the province in physical science, in fact having achieved full marks. You are an inspiration and proof that your situation does not determine your destination. Uyinkwenkwezi eqhakazayo ePhilippi (You are a shining star in Philippi)."

Xabendlini has been accepted to study business science and analytics at UCT and hopes to one day own his own insurance company.

But until then, he doesn't know how he will cover his university fees.

Xabendlini has approached a number of companies in the hopes of a bursary, but none have yet offered to sponsor him.

He also applied for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, but has not yet received a response.

Nevertheless, he has big dreams for himself and hopes to improve his parents' lives.

"My mother left school in Grade 8 and my father in Grade 5, but they always supported us and told us how important school and education is. They are the best parents. I want to show them how thankful I am for that."

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Read more on:    cape town  |  education  |  matric 2016

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