Nqobile Nzimande, 16, was one of the top achievers in KwaZulu Natal for 2018, despite having to deal with challenges in an under-resourced school.
Durban - Nqobile Nzimande is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s top pupils despite having to overcome adversity. The matriculant from St John Paul II High School in Elandskop near Pietermaritzburg received seven distinctions despite the challenging obstacles she faced.

The 16-year-old from rural Taylor’s Halt spoke about her background at the National Senior Certificate awards held at the Durban ICC yesterday.

“I’m like one of those children who doesn’t come from a rich household. I didn’t have access to information through technological resources because I come from a rural area.

“In terms of school, we have no library, no labs and we have overcrowded classrooms. I used my unfortunate upbringing to be where I am right now. It pushed me to do better. Since there was nothing to do, and I had no real exposure to technology, I always had time to study,” she said.

Nqobile, who is passionate about maths, plans to study actuarial science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal this year. “I love challenges, and I’m willing to take the risk,” she said. “Besides maths being my favourite subject, I try to excel in all my other subjects, to create that consistency.”

Nqobile advises pupils from a similar background to work hard and keep pushing: “It’s not about what you have. It’s about how you use what you have at the time. Although I come from a very humble family and background, I would always try to use all the resources I had and all the information I could get. You need to go out and try new things and stand up for yourself. Be consistent in your performance, throughout the year.”

Jarrod Staples of Westville Boys’ High was the province’s top matric pupil.

“I really didn’t expect this, but I’m so proud. It’s a really big achievement. I’m not sure when it will sink in.

“My parents have been there for me since day one. They’ve always supported me but never put pressure on me. They counted on me to do well, and they always let me decide what my own goals were and my own passions were and allowed me to follow that.

“I would also like to thank my headmaster. He’s helped me out a lot, and all my teachers with all the after hours work,” he said.

Jarrod said he was excited about the next chapter in his life and he planned to study chemical engineering at the University of Pretoria.

Phoenix teenager Teniel Gerald, 18, of Greenbury Secondary School, who placed second in the province, said her parents complained when she was spending too much time in her room studying.

“I value consistency and have a good work ethic. You have to sacrifice certain things, and I wanted to stay in and study, but my parents encouraged me to go out and have fun as well.

“In whatever you do, remain calm and work at your goals. It does not need to be stressful,” she said.

Mark Ortmann, 19, of Mooi River, bagged the awards for best agricultural studies and agricultural management student.

“Food security is an important issue, and I hope to make a contribution in this field. I come from a farming background,” he said.

Independent On Saturday