Maths star sums up varsity

2014-10-27 00:00

THE tale of the “home alone maths star” Lwazi Shezi was the 2013 matric story that captured the hearts of Witness readers. Today he’s studying actuarial science at the University of Cape Town.

“It’s really difficult compared to school,” said Lwazi (17), “but I think I’m managing well.”

Lwazi lived entirely alone for his matric year, and was a full year younger than his youngest class-mates — yet he emerged as the top maths pupil in KwaZulu-Natal.

Lwazi scored 100% for both maths and accounting, was one of the top 10 pupils in the province overall, and the top maths pupil in South Africa for previously disadvantaged (Quintile 4) schools, ranked third nationally for maths overall.

The Velabahleke High School pupil told The Witness his achievement was largely thanks to the support of a neighbour, Zodwa Nhlangulela in Umlazi, where he had lived alone for three years in order to attend a better school than the ones near his parents’ home.

Realising that Lwazi was living alone at a critical time in his education, Nhlangulela took it upon herself to cook, clean and even do laundry for Lwazi while he was glued to his books.

But despite his matric triumph Lwazi was doubtful about being able to fund future study because he had not secured a bursary.

Then local businessman Xolani Mbutho, touched by Lwazi’s story, stepped forward to pay for his fees at UCT. Now Lwazi is also being backed by the South African Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP).

Today Lwazi lives in a student residence in Rosebank close to UCT where he began writing his end-of-year exams on Friday. “I will be writing five papers over two weeks,” he said.

“High school was very different to here. Before it was study, study, study every second. Now the main problem is managing distractions.”

But not the usual student distractions. The university has opened up new areas of interest to him. “I’m trying to accommodate those into my life,” he said. “I’ve also become interested in philosophy, anthropology and sociology.” So much so, Lwazi might extend his four-year degree to a fifth so he can include one of these as an extra subject.

And his advice for those embarking on matric today? “Plan for what you want to be. Your matric results will decide for you what you will be. With a good matric you have more chance of being a somebody.”

• Stephen.Coan

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