Zaheer Jacobs’s life took an unexpected turn last year when he became a father midway through his final year of school. With the right support and guidance, he was able to face his many challenges head-on and become the top-performing Grade 12 student in maths at his school. The 18-year-old Lavender Hill High School matriculant celebrated his victory on Wednesday 8 January and immediately began looking at his prospects.“I love maths. I want to do engineering, so I applied at False Bay College here in Westlake,” he said, adding that the status of his application looked promising.A resident of Lavender Hill, Jacobs had to overcome several socio-economic hardships to attain his matric certificate with a bachelor’s pass, otherwise known as the endorsement or minimum legal requirement to study towards a bachelor’s degree.Being one of 10 people living in his home and witnessing the effects of substance abuse around him, studying wasn’t easy for Jacobs.“It was hard for me in the household because there wasn’t enough space for me to sit and study. And there were some fights. I used to wake up at 01:00 or 02:00 in the morning and sit in the kitchen to go over my work,” he said.Adding to Jacobs’s challenges was the birth of his daughter in June, after which he decided that attending school was not the best way for him to provide for his girlfriend and newborn baby.“He stayed out of school for a month with the idea that he wanted to go work and support the child. So we needed to intervene and help,” explained Greg Philander, youth programme manager at the non-profit organisation (NPO) Philisa Abafazi Bethu.“Our support structure was to get him back to school, to study, and to concentrate on schoolwork while we provided the support in terms of getting the necessary toiletries and baby products,” he added.Jacobs said the experience was difficult for him, but the support from the NPO assisted him in more ways than he could explain. “They helped me to support my child and giving me things so that I could do my work.”Jacobs said he would like to be a role model for young people in Lavender Hill by studying towards his degree and making a better life for his family.According to Philander, there were 12 pregnant teens at Lavender Hill High School last year – a statistic that has remained quite constant for the past 10 years.The NPO, which focusses on community activism, will launch several programmes for parents, the elderly, the youth, school drop-outs, young children and more in the new year.Call Philisa Abafazi Bethu on 081 746 9889, email email@example.com or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.