Meet the PEP First Grader winner

Pep firstgrader winners. (Photo: Supplied)
Pep firstgrader winners. (Photo: Supplied)

Azina has been chosen as SA’s cutest Grade 1 learner

It doesn’t get any cuter than this. Many kids are a bundle of nerves on their first day of school – but not Azina Mamane. Kitted out in her new dress and shiny new shoes, little pink backpack slung over her shoulders, the five-year-old couldn’t wait to get to class on her first day of Grade 1.

And this can-do attitude is already earning big rewards for the plucky schoolgirl, from Lawley in Johannesburg. Adorable Azina was chosen as SA’s cutest Grade 1 learner in a competition run by Pep in conjunction with YOU and our sister magazines, Move! and Drum.

Last month, as little ones across South Africa took their first excited – and sometimes tentative – steps into “big school”, readers were invited to choose the cutest Grade 1s from the crop of delightful photos submitted by proud parents. And much to the delight of Azina’s mom, Unathi (34), it was her daughter who was crowned the grand winner, which means her family will receive R10 000 in prize money while her school, Glenanda Primary, will get a R6 000 windfall.

For Unathi and her husband, Wilfred Dube (34), it was a proud moment to accompany Azina to school on her first day and see her taking such a major step with confidence. And winning the competition was the cherry on top. Unathi says it couldn’t have come at better time for the family. “I was struggling a bit financially, so this money will help a lot towards the school fees.”

Azina already has her career mapped out. “She wants to be a teacher,” her mom says. “She likes to teach other kids.”

For Cape Town reader Nazreen Parker, seeing her six-year-old daughter, Miriam, being voted YOU’s first-prize winner of the I’m A First Grader competition felt like an affirmation.

“We applied to eight schools last year for her for Grade 1 and she was rejected by all eight,” Nazreen says. This led to severe stress for Nazreen (37) and her husband, Ishaamodien (48).

“She wasn’t accepted anywhere, and I had to appeal to several schools for her to get a place somewhere. Luckily, Vredelust Primary looked at my appeal letter and that’s how she got in,” Nazreen says.

When readers saw the cute picture her mom submitted for the contest, they also gave Miriam a very clear thumbs-up. The youngster won R5 000 – plus R2 000 for her school. Her mom says the money will be saved for her education.

“When she was very young, we started a fund so that when she starts university we have money for fees and books.”

Miriam has her sights set on becoming a doctor.

“She’s not squeamish when it comes to blood,” Nazreen says. “Her dad had carpal tunnel syndrome and when he had an operation on his hand last year Miriam was the one who helped him clean his wound.”

Her little brother, Mubasheer (5), is her best friend and most loyal supporter, and was there cheering his big sister on when she began her first day at school, Nazreen says.

The best part of winning this prize is seeing the school being rewarded for the faith it placed in her daughter, the proud mom adds. “I feel like we’re basically paying them back for taking in my child; for their acceptance of her into the school.”

The second prize in the Pep I’m A First Grader competition in conjunction with YOU went to Lesego Fori from Brandwag, Bloemfontein, who won R3 000, while the third prize of R2 000 went to Kaitlyn Leigh Ramchuran from Edenvale, Johannesburg.

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