Robert de­fies the odds, ex­cels

Ac­cepted to study as­tro­physics at Wits

Saturday Star - - METRO - KGOPI MABOTJA

AT FIRST sight, Unity Sec­ondary School pupil Robert Molepo comes across as quiet and re­served, al­most timid.

But the young, slim man, who is his school’s top achiever, is ar­tic­u­late and firm – and far too ma­ture for his age.

Here, right in the mid­dle of the East Rand town­ship plagued by gang­ster­ism, un­der-age drink­ing and nu­mer­ous so­cial ills, young Robert has be­come a role model for many of his peers.

Ear­lier this year, Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi had to in­ter­vene fol­low­ing the rise of gang-re­lated vi­o­lence at Unity Sec­ondary School, which in­ter­rupted teach­ing and learn­ing, and claimed the life of a sus­pected gang mem­ber who was set alight near the high school.

Still, Molepo, a 17-year-old who orig­i­nally hails from the vil­lage of Ga-molepo out­side Polok­wane, achieved a to­tal of six dis­tinc­tions in sub­jects in­clud­ing maths, physics and life sciences.

The school recorded a pass rate of 90.87% and bagged a to­tal of 129 bach­e­lors passes.

Molepo, like other pupils, stayed up all night on Thurs­day, anx­ious about his re­sults. He was taken out of his mis­ery when a friend brought him a news­pa­per just af­ter mid­night.

“I could not be­lieve it, even though I worked hard. It’s a dream.”

His fam­ily, who were still on hol­i­day in Lim­popo, thought he was play­ing a trick on them when he broke the good news to them.

“I phoned my mother first. She did not be­lieve me. She knew that I would pass fairly well, but she never ex­pected dis­tinc­tions. I also phoned my aunt. She thought I was jok­ing.”

He is mod­est about his achievements and at­tributes his suc­cess to the col­lec­tive hard work of the school’s teach­ers and other pupils.

“We had maths and physics classes on Satur­day and Sun­day. We had lots of house­work. Our maths teacher, Mr Love­day Gweshe, gave us tests al­most ev­ery Fri­day to track our progress.”

Molepo al­ready boasts nu­mer­ous tro­phies in his fam­ily cab­i­net for his stel­lar per­for­mance through­out the year. He has al­ready been ac­cepted to study as­tro­physics at Wits.

“I have just re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion that I was ac­cepted at Wits. I sim­ply can­not be­lieve my life right now.”

The school’s se­cond top achiever, Mbali Maseko, at­tained five dis­tinc­tions in sub­jects in­clud­ing maths, phys­i­cal sci­ence and life sciences.

Yes­ter­day, she was sur­rounded by friends who were cel­e­brat­ing her achieve­ment with her.

“You don’t un­der­stand. We were dis­turbed by is­sues of gang­ster­ism in this school. We have ac­tu­ally done well de­spite the prob­lems. It was hard hav­ing to come to school ev­ery day when our lives were at risk.”

Al­though she stud­ied hard, the ex­ams were chal­leng­ing: “I ex­pected one or two dis­tinc­tions. At some point, I stopped be­liev­ing in my­self, but I think if I pushed harder I could have achieved much bet­ter re­sults.”

How­ever, Maseko is happy that her re­sults are good enough to help her re­alise a dream of a ca­reer in avi­a­tion.

“I al­ways wanted to be pilot. I hope I can get a bur­sary to help me achieve my dreams.”

Unity prin­ci­pal Wandile Makhubu blames the rise of gang­ster­ism at the school for dis­turb­ing the flow of the aca­demic pro­gramme.

Last year, his school at­tained a ma­tric pass rate of 96.3%.

“Most of my stu­dents stayed away be­cause they were scared for their lives. We had po­lice guard­ing our school from gang­sters, but some were still not con­vinced that their safety is guar­an­teed.

“But I don’t want to use that as an ex­cuse. I’m tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for these re­sults.”

His school has drawn up plans to help it im­prove the re­sults.

“We are above the na­tional, dis­trict and provin­cial aver­age, but this is not our school as we know it. We nor­mally achieve 95% and above. “

Pro­gressed learn­ers – pupils who fail the same grade twice and are pro­moted to the next grade – pose a weak­ness for the school. How­ever, this year, plans are afoot to help them.

“We need to man­age pro­gressed pupils.

“We will have spe­cial ses­sions. Teach­ers are ready to help them. We will also en­sure that they stay and study af­ter school.”

Makhuba ap­peals to par­ents to be in­volved in their chil­dren’s school work as some pupils dis­ap­pear dur­ing exam time.

“There are pupils who did very well, but just did not show up to write English or Isizulu, and in the end, they are ei­ther no re­sulted, or they fail.”

ROBERT Molepo, from Unity Se­coundary School in Davey­ton, on the East Rand achieved six dis­tinc­tions. News Agency (ANA)| NOKUTHULA MBATHA African

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