MANY kids spend the last term of school counting down the days to the end-of year holiday, but Zianique van Eck couldn’t wait to start the new school year as a Grade 1 pupil at “big school”.

Little Zianique’s (6) excitement began building in September last year, says her mom, Ronelda van Eck (36). “She was so excited because she had gone for pre-testing before she went to Grade 1,” Ronelda says. “She spoke nicely, and she sat up straight and she passed the test,” says the proud mom, adding that her daughter promptly began begging her to buy her school dress. That went on for two months, until Zianique decided to escalate the matter. “She went to her grandmother and asked her, ‘Granny, can you buy my dress because I see my mom and dad aren’t going to buy my dress?’” Ronelda recalls. That got the job done and Zianique is now settled in at Naudeville Primary School in Welkom in the Free State. That’s not all she’s accomplished this year, though. Zianique is also the winner of PEP’s 1st Grader competition, run in conjunction with DRUM. Parents were invited to submit cute snaps of their youngsters entering Grade 1, the public voted for the kid with the X factor – and Zianique took first place. She has won a cash prize of R5 000 as well as an additional R2 000 for her school.

As a serious scholar, Zianique has made sure her education is her priority, her mom says. “If I tell her I’m busy with her baby sister, she will come into the kitchen with her homework book and say, ‘What is this? What must I do here? I can’t read yet, so what must I do?’” says Ronelda of her child’s eagerness to learn. Zianique has a couple of career goals in mind already too. “She wants to be a teacher. She wants to teach kids as well as her own teacher does.” Ronelda and her husband, Simon (34), were planning on saving the prize money for their daughter’s future endeavours, but headstrong Zianique had her own plans. “She decided she’s going to dance classes and she’s going to do a modelling class,” Ronelda says. “But she has told us, ‘If dance classes get in the way of my schooling,

I’d rather stop’.” We’ve got a feeling Zianique will manage her schooling, dancing and modelling effortlessly!

The second prizewinner is Shivani Williams, who won R3 000, and third prize went to Hlonolofatso Stoffel, who won R2 000.

PEP’s grand prizewinner is Azina Mamane (5), a Grade 1 learner at Glenanda Primary School in Johannesburg, who won R10 000 as well as R6 000 for her school. Her entry was randomly selected from the competition entries received by DRUM and our sister magazines, Huisgenoot, YOU and Move!. “I was very excited, this money will help a lot towards the school fees,” her mom, Unathi Mamane, says.

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