Cape Town - “You are not what the world thinks of you, you are as normal as any other person.” These are the encouraging words from 19-year-old Samkelo Gumada, who received the number one spot in the country for his academic excellence in the Special Needs Education Category of the Department of Education (DBE) matric awards.
Samkelo matriculated from the Athlone School of the Blind in Bellville with four distinctions.
The teen from Philippi said he did not expect to be part of the top tier of learners to get recognition on a national stage.
Being born with albinism, which caused him to be partially sighted, did not stop this young man from showing that stigmas are just that – stigmas.
“This has always been my mindset. While the majority of people accepted me for who I am, there were some who still looked at me weirdly, like I am not normal. They would have things to say, but I knew I had to focus on myself and not what people said.
“I accepted myself, I also gained confidence knowing God gave this to me because he knows my strength and because he knows the plans, and look now,” the confident teen says.
Now he plans to do his Bachelor of Arts and major in psychology.
Samkelo is not the only one who shone on the national stage. Friend and fellow learner Nizibone Mapolisa took third place nationally in the Special Needs Education category.
Nizibone, 17, from Samora Machel, will study for his LLB at the University of Johannesburg.
He told the Weekend Argus he was equally shocked when his mother informed him that he needed to be in Johannesburg for an awards ceremony hosted by the DBE.
‘I did not have data at the time, so I didn’t see the email, however the principal contacted my mom and she told me.
“I can’t describe how I felt, I just recall running to my bedroom, throwing myself on the bed and smiling.”
Nizibone tells of studying out of books with very large fonts.
“We receive the same work as any other person, the only difference is the letters, they were enlarged.
“I believe you go through a stage where you have to learn to adapt, and
when you reach pass that stage, you will realise that you are just as normal as any other learner. You just have to be positive, have confidence and most importantly, believe in yourself.”
School principal John Philander, said he was still on cloud nine, having his first batch of matriculants who were recognised on the national stage.
“Before, we have had learners who placed on the provincial level, but never nationally.
“These learners are breaking stigmas and I am so proud of them. They are living proof that learners with disabilities and special needs are just as capable of doing things other learners can do.
“I hope this continues and sets the bar for other learners, that all things are possible,” he said.
Western Cape Education MEC, David Maynier congratulated both outstanding matriculants.
“We are delighted that Samkelo has been recognised as the top achieving learner with special needs, and that Nizibone was placed third in the same category.
“These learners have excelled despite the challenges they have had to overcome, and are truly inspiring candidates,” Maynier said.