Triumph Over Adversity: Matric High Achievers inspire With Resilience and Determination



Completing matric is a great accomplishment, and doing it in the face of adversity is a remarkable display of resilience.

On January 18, 2024, during the Ministerial Breakfast with Top Achievers held in Johannesburg, three learners, one hearing-impaired and two with albinism, were celebrated for their resilience and recognised as some of the country’s top matric achievers.

One of these top achievers is 18-year-old Amahle Jemane, who was born in Vosloorus and is a learner at De La Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester, Western Cape. Amahle attended the breakfast with both of her loving parents.

Amahle is determined to pursue her passion for deaf education and plans to study either a Bachelor of Education or Deaf History. She has four siblings, two girls and two boys, and all members of her family, including her parents, are deaf. The family relies on the disability grant as their source of income.

Uriel Jemane, Amahle’s mother, encourages parents with disabled children to support, motivate, and be involved in their children’s education. She expressed her pride in her daughter’s success and thanked God for it. She also emphasised that there is nothing wrong with having a disability and that God created their children in that way. As parents, they need to support their children to achieve their goals.

Jemane urged the government and communities to open doors for deaf people.

“We need more sign language interpreters. Deaf people are able much like any other person, we can work like any other people. Please support a deaf child to dream and realise their full potential like any other child,” she said.

In South Africa and across the continent, people with albinism face enduring prejudice and challenges in various aspects of life. Despite governmental efforts, discrimination persists due to societal and medical misconceptions.

Regardless of these challenges, two friends, Nizibone Mapolisa and Samkelo Gumada are nonetheless determined to be the light of their destiny.

The pair are learners from Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South, Cape Town, and were born with albinism and were among the 30 top achievers in the Class of 2023.

“Teaching is the mother of all professions, without teachers, there are no doctors, lawyers, and engineers,” explained Nizibone as to why he wanted to be part of the teaching fraternity.

He passed with three distinctions in Business Studies, History, and IsiXhosa.

Nizibone said while he was rejoicing now following his hard work matric was no easy fete adding that there were challenges. “Sometimes studying at night is impossible due to load-shedding, and in that way, you are forced to change your study schedule,” he said.

Raised by his single mother after his father’s passing at two years old, Nizibone is a social grant beneficiary. “The trip to Johannesburg was special for me, as it was my mother’s first time on a flight. God made it possible for my mother to be on a flight,” he said.

His mother Asanda Mzimba (41) who works at a hotel in Cape Town said she had been stressed and worried about registration fees but now those worries had turned into tears of joy. “When the principal called me and asked me if I was Nizibone’s mother, I thought there was something wrong with my child. I was shocked and could not believe that my child was amongst 30 top achievers. I travelled on a flight for the first time because of my son. The heart-warming moment was to see teachers and learners from Nizibone’s school welcoming us back at Cape Town airport. I am so grateful to God,” she said.

Earning four distinctions, Samkelo received an exciting opportunity – an Orange Carpet offer to pursue a Bachelor of Education at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The Orange Carpet program is an initiative by UJ, reserved for high-achieving matriculants demonstrating excellence in Grades 11 and 12.

The programme does not only include guaranteed monetary rewards but also other incentives that enrich student life.

“If I was not staying in Philippi, I was not going to achieve good results. The environment pushed me to work twice as hard as I come from a poor background. If I was staying in the suburbs or a comfortable home, I was going to relax and not focus on my studies. The conditions we live under in our area are not good. It is too noisy and people play loud music and do not care if you are studying or not. Weekends are worse because people do not sleep. They party the whole night,” he said.

He said that he had to devise a routine where he slept during the day and studied two or three hours at night during weekdays.

“On weekends I used to go to sleep at school so I could study.” Samkelo shared that his mother resides in the Eastern Cape with his younger brother and is employed at a retail shop. In South Africa, the reality for many children involves growing up without their biological fathers, with over 60% not living with them. According to the Human Sciences Research Council, merely 20% of children maintain contact with their biological fathers twice a week.

“My father is absent so the social grant we get from the government assists my mother and aunt to take care of my needs. It has been six years without talking to my father. It does not affect me that much because I have support from my mother, aunts, cousins, and uncles,” he said.

His aunt, Boniswa Gwamanda, described Samkelo as a disciplined child adding that she was excited about what he had achieved. “God has answered our prayers. The area we live in is very depressing. He used to drink coffee at night to avoid sleeping so he could study. My prayer was always for God to see him through,” she concluded.

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