On the same day that Lukhanyo Velelo, the top pupil at Sinenjongo High School in Joe Slovo Park, heard that he’d got five matric distinctions, he also received his first letter rejecting his bursary application.
Lukhanyo, 18, got distinctions in maths, physical science, life sciences, computer application technology and life orientation. He narrowly missed out on a full house of distinctions by scoring 79 percent for both English and Xhosa.
His academic distinctions were the first recorded at his school.
Yesterday, in the one-roomed shack he shares with his uncle, Lukhanyo was not letting his rejection letter get him down. He expressed joy at his results, and excitement at his future plans. His first step is to apply for remarks in English and Xhosa.
Lukhanyo was in the Eastern Cape on Thursday when his principal called to tell him the good news.
Having recently undergone the Xhosa initiation ritual, he says he was supposed to react calmly.
“Initiates are not supposed to shout. But I shouted inside the house. My relatives were leaping with joy. They didn’t understand things like distinctions, so I had to explain it.”
Lukhanyo, who lived with his uncle while attending school, says he never knew his father. His mother lives in the Eastern Cape.
He now plans to study towards a BSc in actuarial science at Wits University, although he is still waiting for further responses to his applications for bursaries.
He credits his teachers, principal, and one woman in particular for his excellent results. “The first lady that springs to mind is my maths teacher, Miss (Pamela) Robertson. She helped me to apply for bursaries, and to apply to university. She sent me for career assessments. She’s my mom.”
Other teachers also helped - with some giving him food when, in 2008, his uncle was unemployed for a whole year, and the pair struggled financially.
Asked about the uphill battle of studying for his matric, he said: “There is so much noise in this place.”
As if to prove it, a neighbour’s music starts up, blaring through the thin walls of the neatly furnished shack.
His school made an arrangement with Simon Banda, the director of a local company, to allow him to study at its offices in Century City.
Lukhanyo also attended Saturday classes at CPUT, while another company, Mazar’s, sponsored him with a laptop.
School principal Malinga Nopote said Lukhanyo was a very committed pupil.
“He goes out of his way to help other students. When the teacher is out of the class, Lukhanyo takes over and helps the others,” she said.
The school has seen a dramatic turn-around in its matric results over the past few years.
Three years ago, the matric pass rate was below 30 percent. In 2010, the pass rate was 97 percent.
This year the results dropped slightly, but the size of the matric class had doubled from the previous year - with more pupils now staying in school.
They achieved 14 As, 66 Bs, 111 Cs and 114 Ds.
They had a 100 percent pass rate in computer applications technology, English (first additional language), Xhosa home language and life orientation. The pass rate for accounting was 69.2 percent, while they had a 95.8 percent pass rate in science, 85.7 percent in maths, and 92.4 percent in maths literacy.
Nopote said she put the turn-around down to strong leadership, and pushing teachers and pupils to work harder. The school has also been “adopted” by Rabe Property Developers, which has contributed to its development.
Spokeswoman for the company, Maggie Rowley said they were hugely proud of the school.
“It proves what can be done if the public and private sector work together to improve the quality of education in this country.” - Saturday Argus