root - January 30, 2023

Seven distinctions for Joe Slovo Park learner despite schooling disruptions and the challenges of living in an informal settlement

Peter Luhanga

In order to be able to concentrate on her matric studies, Lisakanya Mlindi had to wake up in the early morning hours when the informal settlement where she lives was quiet for a brief period.

Despite this handicap, along with having to share a shack with four family members in Esqalo informal settlement in Milnerton, Lisakanya Mlindi, who attended Sinenjongo High in Joe Slovo Park, achieved seven distinctions.

The matric results released on 19 January revealed Lisakanya was the only pupil to achieve seven distinctions at Sinenjongo, whose 283 pupils achieved a matric pass rate of 87,3%.

Not only did Lisakanya have to endure overcrowded living conditions and a lack of municipal services, her matric group was set back by disruption in schooling brought about by the lockdowns put in place to curb the Covid–19 pandemic.

“I was in grade 10 in 2020 when Covid struck. We went to school part time. We didn’t attend any classes then. When I got into grade 11, it was hard,” said Lisakanya.

She said her 26-year-old brother, who works as a DJ, didn’t make studying any easier as he would always bring “girls” to the house on weekends. 

“It was very noisy and I could not study,” she said, so she applied to attend the Asset learning hub, which offers a venue for Grade 12 pupils to study together. 

With her record of top marks, she has been accepted at the University of the Free State, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of the Western Cape, and her first choice: Stellenbosch University, where she would like to pursue accounting. “I love numbers,” she said.

Her mother, Nomalungisa Mlindi, 39, is a domestic worker and was an alcoholic but quit drinking in order to set a good example to her daughter.

“If I didn’t change [drinking alcohol and not coming home], she would not have been where she is now”, said Nomalungisa.

She said she was not surprised that her daughter did well in her matric results as she worked hard, but didn’t expect her to bag seven distinctions. 

“From a very young age she didn’t like being absent from school. She didn’t like going out, she was always indoors reading books,” said Nomalungisa. 

She said her daughter sometimes had to use a cellphone torch in order to study, and her aunt sometimes bought her cellular data so she could do research on the internet.

“She studied under very difficult circumstances.  It’s always noisy during the day and night and the noise and loud music, even though coming from outside, is as loud as if its from inside our shack.”

Noise and overcrowded living conditions were also obstacles Zintle Majwede, 17, had to overcome, but they did not stop her from getting six distinctions.

Zintle, who also attended Sinenjongo and lives in Joe Slovo Park, has been accepted to study medicine at the University of Cape Town, but has decided to rather study for a degree in pharmacy at the University of the Western Cape where she has also been accepted. 

Zintle, who was the school’s top maths pupil with a mark of 96%, had to battle against constant noise and a lack of space in the room her mom rents within an extended RDP house which she shares with her mom and siblings. 

“The reason I worked so hard to do better is because my mother is a single parent, she didn’t pass matric, and also my elder sister didn’t pass matric. I wanted to change my home situation. I want to buy my mom a house… I want to change the welfare of our family,” said Zintle.

She said the house where they rent a room is close to shebeens and when other tenants drink on weekends they often end up quarreling in the corridors.

Zintle’s mother, Nikiwe Majwede, 44, says she was at work when her daughter sent her a text informing her of the matric results. “I cried. Thank god for protecting her.”

Nikiwe said she and her other children sacrificed watching television in the evening in order to allow Zintle, who was often joined by her cousin, to study. 

“Only god knows how the children focused. I managed to cook and wash all the dishes so the children could get enough time to study. I said: ‘you see how we live, if you study, you’ll get whatever you want’.”

Sinenjongo High principal Khuselwa Nopote said the school’s pass rate of 87.3% was down from 90.7% in 2021.

“One of the reasons was the number of learners increasing every year. It’s more learners for each subject. It’s more challenging for the teachers but we will make a plan one way or the other,” said Nopote.

She said the Covid-19 disruptions had also made if more difficult for the pupils as exams fell away for a time.

“There was also a lack of commitment on the side of learners and lack of support on the side of parents. We had to push the learners all the time to do better,” she said. “I don’t feel bad at all on the results even though I’m disappointed about the drop, we’re going to work on that.”

Meanwhile, a total of 193 learners wrote the 2022 matric examinations at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School in Dunoon. 

Of these, 145 candidates passed representing 75.1% pass rate, a slight increase from 74.3% in 2021.

A bachelor’s pass was achieved by 42 matrics, 62 achieved a diploma pass, 41 achieved a higher certificate pass and 48 failed. 

Western Cape MEC for Education David Maynier stated the Western Cape matric class of 2022 has beaten the odds and increased the provincial matric pass rate to 81.4%, with 49 102 candidates passing their exams, making it the largest number of successful candidates the province has ever had. “This class was one of the last to go back to school in 2020, and were not at school every day during 2021. Their curriculum was trimmed for three years, but the matric exams tested the full content. And they did not have any exam practice in Grade 10 and 11,” stated Maynier. 

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