Thabile Qondani, centre, her English teacher, Stephanie Paul, and her cousin, Mary Ranketsi, during the announcement of the matric results in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Durban - She was only 11 when she lost her hearing after an illness. She had also lost her mother and was abandoned by her father, apparently due to her disability.

This is the story of Thabile Qondani, 20, who despite her difficult upbringing secured her position among the top matric achievers who had a breakfast meeting with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga yesterday ahead of the release of the 2018 matric results.

Although she was the only one not accompanied by her parents to the breakfast in Midrand, Johannesburg, she said she was still the luckiest teenager alive.

Speaking through her English teacher Stephanie Paul from KwaThintwa School for the Blind, Qondani said she may have been unfortunate to have lost her mother at a tender age, and lost her hearing as a result of an illness, but her life had turned out to be the best that a child with her background could enjoy.

After being abandoned by her father, she was taken in by her aunt.

“Growing up without parents can be a traumatic experience. School was everything to me. I enjoyed school so much that I didn’t have time to think about the things I have lost and the things I do not have,” she said.

She said her aunt, even though she struggled to pay for her education at a special school, still gave her a home and a sense of belonging.

The help she received from sponsors who paid for her hostel accommodation ensured that she remained at school. “I’m happy at the way my life has turned out. All my life, my main goal was to do well in school and go to university. I have achieved my dream. I’m grateful for all the support I received from my school and my family,” she said.

Qondani plans to study law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Paul said the school was overwhelmed by Qondani’s achievement.

“She has been through a lot as a child and, growing up, she has shown a never-say-die attitude. These are the qualities that have helped her through school,” said Paul.

She said she was part of the first matric class to write Sign Language offered as a Home Language and as a subject in the world.

School principal Dr Mavis Naidoo said it was imperative for the public to know that deaf children could compete with mainstream pupils and excel against all odds.

She will be among the thousands looking out today for their matric results.

Daily News