Six A’s for Vuwani’s big star
When Patience Sedimela saw the deeply demoralising images of her torched classroom beamed out on television news, she thought it was all over for her.
But she soon replaced her despair with sheer determination.
“I could not bear the thought of repeating my matric year. It all felt like the sting of a needle going through my spine. But I refused to allow circumstances to delay my dream. I was not going to let anything stand in my way of going to university so that I could ease my family’s financial hardships,” she says.
Four months after the end of the violent protests that had swept through Vuwani’s villages, Sedimela’s determination has earned her six distinctions, including for mathematics and physical science. She is the pride of Vhafamadi Secondary School in Mashau village.
Raised by a single mother who supported her two daughters by selling sweets on the street, Sedimela (18) has cleared all of 2016’s hurdles. But there are still some ahead.
Her smile fades when she’s asked about her plans for this year.
“Medunsa [Sefako Makgatho Health Science University] has accepted me for study in medicine this year ... BUT,” she pauses.
“I haven’t had any positive response from any of the possible sponsors I had written to last year. I guess they also thought: Vuwani children were not going to make it.
“For now, I would just bask in the glory of my achievement, while I pray for financial assistance.
“Last year wasn’t easy, but nothing can beat determination, even in the ugliest of situations. And I have not lost one bit of my determination.”
Sedimela had attended one of the 73 schools that were closed by residents in an attempt to pressurise the government to reverse its decision to incorporate Vuwani into the Malamulele municipality. Subsequently at home for three full months, Sedimela soldiered on and studied on her own. “I went through my notes over and over again, did the same with my textbooks, and grabbed and studied any past examination paper I could lay my hands on.” Under the circumstances she was aiming at merely achieving an ordinary pass. “And that was sad, because I knew it would not allow me to go to university and study medicine. But I could not just give up,” she says. “I was haunted by thoughts of a sudden announcement that we were going to have to repeat our grades, but still I prayed, and held on to the hope that the protest would come to an end and we would get back to class.” Sedimela and thousands of others went back to school after the August local government elections, and she grasped every opportunity for extra time at school, including recovery programmes and a government-funded study camp. “I knew already while attending the camp, where we revised everything, that I was gearing up for higher marks. I am more than happy at my achievement, the fruit of my hard work and sweat,” she stresses. Sedimela’s principal, Mashau Thenga, wishes all his pupils could have shown the same enthusiasm. “We had 147 matriculants and 89 of them passed, including 32 with bachelor passes. “Most of those who did not make it are those who did not cooperate and who failed to attend our study camp,” the principal said.
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