'I went all out and I made it' – KZN's top inmate matriculant reflects on second chance

Westville Prison inmate Sandile Stangoni says he faced many challenges while writing his matric exams. (Screenshot/Kaveel Singh)
Westville Prison inmate Sandile Stangoni says he faced many challenges while writing his matric exams. (Screenshot/Kaveel Singh)

KwaZulu-Natal's top-performing Correctional Services inmate has called on young people to refrain from drugs and negative influences, saying education has given him a second chance at life.

"I was a drug addict before, and I got out of school. There's no future in drugs. It is either they kill you or you go to prison," Westville Prison inmate Sandile Stangoni told News24 on Wednesday.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the KZN leg of the 2019 matric top achievers event.

Stangoni, who managed a whopping four As, said there were many challenges with studying in prison. He has been imprisoned since June 2018.

"It has been a difficult year. It is not easy studying in prison. There are a lot of things that you cannot do in prison. Many things are happening around you."

He however persevered, refusing to give up.

"But I told myself that nothing is more important than education. So, I went all out and studied - sleepless nights. I'd like to thank the effort my teachers made, who helped me to get where I am today."

Stangoni said sometimes it was not easy to get information for assignments.

"We also don't have some study notes, so you have to share. But again, through the excellent job of our teachers, I made it."

He said his strategy was consistency and getting help from others.

"During my exams I formed study groups, studied hard, gave myself time to sleep and had lots of water."

While he still has at least another year to serve, Stangoni said he hoped to study architecture in 2021.

"I have parole next year."

Poor results

Meanwhile, KZN saw a marked improvement in the pass rate with a 5% increase to 81.3%, up from 2018's 76.2%.

Of the 116 937 pupils who sat for examinations, 44 189 achieved a bachelors pass. This is up from 2018, when 38 573 managed the pass.

Statistics also revealed that 201 schools in the province obtained a 100% pass in 2019 compared to 121 schools in 2018.

However, three schools had a dismal 0% pass rate.

Reacting to the poor results, MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu said remedial measures at the schools were the key focus.

"As we review our academic improvement plan, we will be paying attention to them."

He said two of the schools which had a 0% pass rate only had three pupils while the other had 11 pupils.

Mshengu said there would also be a focus on schools which managed a pass rate below 65%.

"We need to be above 80%."

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