Information released by the Department of Basic Education shows a drop-out rate of over 18% of full-time public school students who entered matric in 2019. Despite facing several challenges, Andile Mdluli (19) refused to be part of this statistic.Holding down part-time jobs to cover her living expenses, this determined young woman managed to put herself through school, first completing Grade 11 in 2018 and then attaining her matric certificate with a bachelor’s pass in 2019. Pressure from her family to give up her studies and move back to KwaZulu-Natal, having to constantly move around in Dontse Yakhe, struggling to find a quiet place to study and two stays in hospital – one for meningitis and the other because of a severe allergic reaction – were but a few of the many obstacles she had to overcome.“I used to go to bed at 19:00 and then get up at 02:00 to study until 06:00 before leaving for school,” Andile says.During her matric year, she was chosen to attend this year’s Asia Youth International Model United Nations (AYIMUN) which will be held in Malaysia. She will be jetting off on Saturday 15 February to join about 2 000 other young movers and shakers from around the world at the four-day conference. She says she first learnt about AYIMUN in 2016 when she saw a video on YouTube.“Last year, I decided to enter with my Ready for World project,” says Andile.Andile used money she had saved towards the application fee but it wasn’t enough. Hearing about her plight, Roberto Quintas, councillor for ward 74, helped raise another R3 000. In November last year, she heard her application had been approved. The Tore’s Foundation (Andile is part of its debate team) paid for her plane ticket and accommodation in Malaysia.The project aims to teach learners from Quintile 1 to 3 schools about the fourth industrial revolution and its forecasted effect on the job market. “(After completing school) people at my school only want to work in retail jobs. But if you look at what is happening in Europe, many of these jobs are being replaced by technology. South Africa tends to follow this pattern. These kinds of jobs will be scarce in the future.”Quintas also arranged for Andile to meet with the provincial minister of education Debbie Schäfer in the fourth term last year.“I got the chance to ask the minister where South Africa is at in the process to advance the implementation of the fourth industrial revolution in education. She said at present the private institutions were at the forefront of progressing the technological revolution and that it would take time for the government institutions to do the same.” Originally from KZN, Andile moved to Cape Town to study at Camps Bay High in 2017. Her sister, Cynthia Mdluli, who was studying at the University of the Western Cape at the time, had arranged for a sponsor to pay for her school fees. Andile says having to suddenly study in English proved difficult. “At the time I didn’t know English so that was a big problem,” she says. Andile says her sponsor and her family were pushing her hard, wanting her to get good marks. “They told me that if I didn’t do better they would send me to Silikamva High School in Imizamo Yethu, but for me, that wasn’t a threat. I wanted to go there – it would be easier to study in my own language.”In 2018, Andile registered at Silikamva but in the middle of the first term, her sister, without any warning, fetched her from where she was staying and put her on a bus to KZN. Andile had just been elected a representative council member at Silikamva. “My marks were improving, even the teachers said so, but no-one believed in me. My mother wanted me to come home because she was worried that I would learn bad behaviour from the other kids.”Arriving in KZN with her school clothes and textbooks bundled up in a black plastic bag, Andile was told that she would only continue her schooling the next year. Applications had already closed for local schools but Andile hoped she still had a placement at Silikamva. So when her mother sent her to her grandfather in Soweto a month later, Andile got on a different bus and came back to Cape Town to continue her studies there. Asked what her plans were for the rest of this year, Andile said that it all depended on whether her application to Unisa to study Diplomatic and International Relations was successful. She had applied on the day that People’s Post interviewed her. “My applications to other universities were rejected because of my math mark. I want to rewrite the math paper this year. I was accepted at Rosebank College, but I can’t afford it. So if I don’t get accepted at Unisa, I will have to reconsider my options.”Whatever she decides on, one thing is for sure. Andile won’t give up until she reaches her goal.