Maboneng teen, the first in her family to go to university, plans to build a space station in South Africa

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"The moment I saw my examination number and counted the number of distinctions, I was so excited - it felt surreal," says Tebatso.
"The moment I saw my examination number and counted the number of distinctions, I was so excited - it felt surreal," says Tebatso.

18-year-old Tebatso Shabalala is one of many matriculants who are beaming with pride after receiving their matric results after she realised she had earned 7 distinctions; one for each of her school subjects.

However, Tebatso says she and her family are "over the moon" as this milestone means that she will be the first in her mother's family to have the opportunity to go to University.

"They were overwhelmed with joy. They couldn't stop talking about it, even now! Whenever they meet a person, they say 'you know my child got 7 distinctions?'," says Tebatso. "It's a miracle for them."

Also see: Heading for the moon: Matriculant with 7 distinctions has his sights set on NASA

'It felt surreal'

Tebatso grew up with her two younger sisters and her mother in the town of Mabopane where she attended Pelotona Secondary School.

Tebatso says the day she received her matric results started out as ordinary when she, her mother, her aunt and uncle went to a nearby petrol station to get the latest publication of newspapers with the national Matric 2021 results. 

"The moment I saw my examination number and counted the number of distinctions, I was so excited - it felt surreal," says Tebatso.

Tebatso knew that she had worked hard to achieve this goal, but was still dumbfounded at the realisation that she had obtained a 90% grade aggregate. 

Tebatso has since been offered two bursaries and says that she was grateful for the opportunity to represent her family in a way that brought hope and joy.

"On my mother's side, they are underprivileged and being the first person to come to varsity means I'm representing them," she says.

Also read: Maritzburg College matriculant collects 7 distinctions, says he can finally 'start living'

'I want to be an astronaut'

Tebatso now has her sights set on studying Aeronautical Engineering at Witwatersrand University, as it is one of only three universities that offer the degree in South Africa.

"I want to be an astronaut and I know that this degree gives me a lot of advantages. I can enrol at an aviation school, be a pilot as well as being an aerospace engineer," explains Tebatso.

The young matriculant says that she has dreams of building a space transportation company in South Africa, much like Elon Musk's SpaceX, and hopes that she can maintain her work ethic and ambition.


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