These were the attributes that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga underlined as the most common themes among the top achievers she had spoken during her 15 years as a head of education, both at provincial and national level.
The qualities Motshekga highlighted on Thursday were best encapsulated by 17-year-old orphan Sinolwethu Mfedu and a peer, Phiwayinkosi Mhlongo, also 17, who left home in KwaZulu-Natal at just 12 years old to live and study in Soweto.
Motshekga was speaking at a breakfast hosted for the National Senior Certificate class of 2018 top achievers. The NSC exam was written by public school learners.
More than 20 matriculants attended the event with their parents, caregivers and teachers, all of whom were lauded by Motshekga as having played a critical role in their development.
However, the minister issued a challenge to the star learners.
“This (achievement) puts a huge responsibility on your shoulders because it means you will take our country forward. We are expecting the best from you.
“You are going to take us out of underdevelopment.
“We can’t be a Third World country forever,” Motshekga asserted.
Ready to take up the minister’s challenge was Sinolwethu, of Bizana in the Eastern Cape, the first in her family to pass matric.
Sinolwethu was orphaned at the age of 11 when her father died, following the death of her mother when she was only 4 years old.
Despite the impoverished background in which she grew up, Sinolwethu was confident that her achievement would inspire her 10-year-old brother as well as her home community.
She wanted them to see her accomplishment as a sign that “nothing is impossible”.
Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty, pictured, paid tribute to Motshekga, describing her as a most effective leader.
Surty said Motshekga had been remarkable over the past decade while at the helm of basic education.
Former president Jacob Zuma appointed her to the position in 2009, when he launched the department, which was previously the higher education department.
“She’s been a wonderful leader and a wonderful partner,” said Surty.
“I’ve worked with her for 15 years. We’ve been extraordinary partners.”
Turning his attention to 2018’s top matrics, Surty said: “You are indeed the product of the attempts by the minister to provide quality in education.”
He said Motshekga’s tenure had seen the performance of girls improving. “We can celebrate the fact we’ve ensured that our girl learners outperform our boys.”
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