FOR some Cape Town matriculants the Covid-19 pandemic was one of many hurdles they had to overcome to succeed.
Matriculants faced with various challenges – from being a teen mom, recovering from alcohol addiction, poverty and a death of a parent – and through sheer grit and determination managed to succeed.
Matriculant Lauren-Lee Davids, of Bonteheuwel, is a shy and humble youngster whose accomplishments speak volumes.
The 18 year-old, who matriculated at Arcadia High School in Bonteheuwel, was all smiles when she opened the white envelope with her results. She managed to pass with two distinctions.
Just that morning, she heard that she had been accepted to study teaching at the University of Cape Town or Wits University. She knew she passed, but how well she did was the question.
Lauren-Lee was head-girl and the school’s top achiever, yet nobody truly understood the depth of her struggles.
In 2019 her father died, which devastated the 18 year-old.
“Maak net jou matriek klaar…” (Just finish your matric) he would tell her, and she did just that.
“So this is for him,” said Lauren-Lee, as she burst into tears.
She lives in a house on an open field in Bonteheuwel, where she shares a room with her mother and her three siblings. Three more families also live under the same roof.
“Things weren’t always easy. There were times we really struggled. I never knew what it was like to have my own space, even just to study, I also knew my mother was working really hard to provide for us,” she said.
“But I knew I had to study hard to make sure that we get out of this toxic environment.”
One of her teachers, Shirley Jacobs, offered her a place to stay during the final exams. It was then that she realised teachers can make a huge difference, and this further cemented her career choice.
“This teacher motivated me and taught me much more than just lessons, so I want to study teaching so that I can do the same for the next learner.”
Lauren-Lee lived in two houses during her final exams. At both homes, she had support; at one home was her eldest sister Leslie-Ann Matthee, 29, whom she loves dearly.
Keano Frank, 18, from the same school, also celebrated passing matric.
He came second at the school, after his best friend Lauren-Lee.
Keano’s mother, Regina Ohlson, burst into tears when he read out his results.
“A bachelor’s pass! Mommy, I made it,” he shouted with tears of joy.
Ohlson explained that she had sent Keano to rehab for alcohol abuse the year before.
“And look where we are now, head boy and a top achiever. I am so proud of them both, that they didn’t allow their circumstances to bring them down,” she said.
Arcadia High School’s pass rate also improved from 61% to 76%.
The school’s principle Michele Nassen said she was proud of the entire class’s achievements.
“You put the school on the map, you showed your family and friends you can do it, and you showed Bonteheuwel what you are capable of, this is the beginning of your story, go out and get it,” she said.
In Athlone, 18-year-old Ashleigh Page proved that having a baby does not have to derail your dreams.
Last year, Weekend Argus featured Page’s story of how she fell pregnant in Grade 10, but continued her schooling.
On Friday, Ashleigh said she hardly slept the night before, while she anxiously awaited her results.
“I was so nervous, I tossed and turned. I couldnt wait anymore…” she said.
“I was nervous because it wasn’t easy, I had to study while my baby was next to me crumbling my pages or watching her baby programmes on my phone. Yes, I had so much help and support from my mom, aunt and her father and his family, but I still felt the stress.”
But the end result was all worth it when Ashleigh obtained a bachelor’s pass.
Her mother, Natalie Simpson, 37, said if her daughter could study with a baby on her side and pass with a bachelor’s pass, so could others.
“Imagine what else you can achieve, just do it, reach for your dreams,” she said.
Ashleigh plans to study beauty therapy this year, and also work weekends to help provide for her daughter.
“This is all for her, she motivated me, so I want to inspire her.”
Plumstead High School recorded a pass rate of 97.2%.
Christel House South Africa, a non-profit school in Ottery that enrols pupils from impoverished areas on the Cape Flats, also celebrated a 95.3% matric pass rate, and a 78% bachelor’s pass.
Matriculantl Asekho Nkwenkwana, 18, of Langa, was the top-performing pupil and valedictorian.
She achieved six distinctions and will be studying a Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree at Stellenbosch University.
Asekho has faced numerous challenges, including the deaths of her mother in 2019, and grandmother in 2021.
She lives with her elderly father, cooking and caring for him, there were also times the household did not have running water or electricity, yet she persevered.
During her final exams, she was offered accommodation by the school, which she said was something for which she would forever be thankful.
“I faced many challenges in my matric year, including not being able to study at home, because electricity was an issue.
“The Matric Study Intensive programme really helped with this, as it provided me with a safe, quiet space to study.
“I also got so much support from the social workers and teachers at Christel House SA, and I am really thankful,” she said