Lance Minnies came close to losing his life in a deadly 2016 fire and almost gave up on his studies when he recovered.But it was the hope for a better future and the support of caring people at his school that pulled him through and led to him proudly holding his matric certificate at a Special Ministerial Award ceremony on Thursday.He was one of three pupils to receive the award for excellence despite barriers to learning from Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer at Leeuwenhof.The ceremony recognised the achievements of both pupils and schools across the province.Minnies was in Grade 11 at AZ Berman High School in Mitchells Plain in June 2016 when the fire occurred.He was visiting church youth friends in Eastridge and had to be retrieved from the burning home. He sustained burns to 99% of his body.The fire killed eight people, including five children, and injured five others.'I just wanted to go home'"I had several operations every week where I thought I would never make it. I [spent] five months in hospital. I was crying, there was a lot of pain I had to go through and I just wanted to go home," he explained on Thursday.Read: 'He is frightened and only a child’- mom of teen who survived blazeHe thought it was the "beginning of new things" when he was eventually sent home.But he had to repeat Grade 11, a bitter pill he swallowed after school staff said everyone had to make sacrifices in life for things they wanted."I was excited for matric because I am the first child of my mommy that matriculated of seven children."But in June last year, two years after the fire, he felt depressed, as if everything was too much to handle.'We are going to help you'He told the school that he was packing it up."The next day... teachers and the principal came to my house and said... 'you came too far just to leave you here. You are going to do your matric and we are going to help you where we can and you are not going to lay at home.'""Although we didn't have a big house, not a lot of stuff, but I was thinking of my future."Also read: Matric results: Parliamentary committees praise provinces on improvementHe said he didn't want his future children to want for anything.When his mother Rita heard the news that he had passed matric, he said she jumped with joy.Minnies hopes to study business management next year (2020).Relying on charity from strangersThe other recipients of the Special Ministerial Award were Ntokozo Genu (Zola Senior Secondary School) and Trazeen Mbidlana (Hoërskool Grabouw).Genu, 20, was recognised for obtaining a bachelor's pass despite having no relatives in Cape Town and relying on the charity of his school and strangers.He comes from Qumbu in the Eastern Cape.He told News24 that he missed three weeks of school in his matric year because he had nowhere to stay."A lady who knew my uncle took me to her home [in Site C, Khayelitsha] and my school provided nutrition," he said softly.The young man does not have a place to stay in Cape Town anymore but hopes to study towards a BCom Economics at UWC.Mbidlana received her award for pushing through despite being hospitalised for trauma last year.