Two Alexan­dra matrics beat the odds

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHER­NICK

STRUG­GLING through their aca­demics and on the brink of fail­ure, Mitz­vah School ma­tric­u­lants Them­binkosi Mokoko and Tshep­ang Mam­pane have beaten the odds and ob­tained bach­e­lor de­gree passes in their fi­nal ex­ams.

Both young men live in Alexan­dra and were ac­cepted into Mitz­vah for their ma­tric year. They had no foundation in maths and science and it wasn’t easy mak­ing up what they had lost in the ear­lier school­ing years.

“It was a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion and it was dis­turb­ing to our aca­demics, but the teach­ers here re­ally helped us and gave us a holis­tic ap­proach,” Tshep­ang said.

“I had no ba­sis in geog­ra­phy, but I took the sub­ject be­cause it in­ter­ested me. I got a solid 65 per­cent.

“I’m go­ing to be the first of three sib­lings to go to univer­sity. My older brother and sis­ter both did ma­tric­u­late, but weren’t able to go.” It wasn’t easy grow­ing up in Alexan­dra with the high crime rates, drugs and poverty sur­round­ing them. “There were times where we thought about giv­ing up,” both re­called.

“It took a lot of de­ter­mi­na­tion, but we did it com­ing from Alex. You un­der­stand that not every­one is go­ing to be able to make it. I’m very proud,” Tshep­ang added.

His favourite sub­jects were life sciences and geog­ra­phy.

“I was wor­ried about maths and phys­i­cal science, but I passed both.” Tshep­ang plans to study elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing with the aim of work­ing in avi­a­tion.

It’s been a tough jour­ney for Them­binkosi who lost his mom at age nine and moved in with his aunt, a do­mes­tic worker. Al­though the fam­ily con­tinue to strug­gle fi­nan­cially, what kept Them­binkosi in­spired were the teach­ers at Mitz­vah, who con­tin­u­ously be­lieved in him and his abil­i­ties. “It en­cour­aged me to work hard and I re­alised that ed­u­ca­tion is the an­swer for me. It will solve ev­ery­thing and this is what kept me go­ing.

“Los­ing my mom at a young age was dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially now when I needed a par­ent to help me through the stress and prob­lems of ma­tric. But my aunt kept en­cour­ag­ing me, which I’m grate­ful for.” With 45 to 50 stu­dents in their pre­vi­ous school in Alexan­dra, it was ei­ther sink or swim for the two boys. “The teacher didn’t re­ally care; it was ev­ery man for him­self.

“At Mitz­vah it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. We were all equals de­spite our back­grounds, no­body looked at that stuff.” Look­ing back, there were some chal­lenges dur­ing his ma­tric year. “We live in a one-bed­room house and there’s a lot of noise around us from out­side, which was chal­leng­ing when I stud­ied. It was also all quite over­whelm­ing but I’m re­ally re­lieved.”

In the fu­ture he hopes to make a dif­fer­ence in his com­mu­nity. “I want to pass on what I have learnt to other chil­dren and help them to be suc­cess­ful.”

Them­binkosi has been ac­cepted to study nu­clear medicine tech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Johannesburg.

Mitz­vah School is a small out­reach school that ac­cepts stu­dents from the Alexan­dra schools for their ma­tric year.


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