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‘They said I used muthi’ | Top matriculants defy doubters and load shedding

Nomfundo Mthembu was in primary school when she lost her parents. Her father died when she was in grade 1 and her mother passed on when she was in grade 7.

Her uncle Sqiniseko Mthembu took her and her younger sister into his home and raised them.

In 2023, the 18-year-old from Ntulabayise High School in KwaNibela, a village in northern KwaZulu-Natal, moved into a rented room closer to school. She is among 34 top achievers from the matric class of 2023.

Nomfundo’s success did not come easy after losing her parents at a young age and relied on a social grant and support from Mthembu.

“My classmates have been very supportive and always encouraged me, telling me I will achieve great things in life, but other students accused me of using muti to get good marks. It was painful but I knew I was working hard and deserved those marks,” said Nomfundo.

“I moved into a rented room because I was studying at school till 10 at night. It was a challenging time for me and my sister [after our mother died] but my uncle and his wife took us in and they have been very supportive.

Nomfundo Mthembu
Nomfundo Mthembu from Ntulabayise High School in KwaNibela in Kwa-Zulu Natal jumps with excitement as one of the top performing students in the matric class of 2023 during the ministerial breakfast with minister of basic education Angie Motshekga.

 

Nomfundo Mthembu was in primary school when she lost her parents. Her father died when she was in grade 1 and her mother passed on when she was in grade 7.

Her uncle Sqiniseko Mthembu took her and her younger sister into his home and raised them.

“My sister is also doing well in school. She is very smart.”

KwaNibela is situated near Lake St Lucia and Nomfundo said some residents still rely on water from the lake.

“I come from a deep rural village, a poverty-stricken community with no water. It is a challenging environment to be in. I had big dreams growing up but because of the environment I grew up in I had doubts about doing well; but when I was in grade 10 a matric pupil in our school performed well and that is when I had belief that I could also do well and achieve great marks. I had to focus and work hard,” she said.

“They said I used muthi to pass”


She added: Some students would say teachers favor me. Some would say I use muthi to pass, but that is not true. However, Mthembu who does not have parents anymore, said her family supported her throughout her matric journey.

Nomfundo said she wants to study medicine at the University of Cape Town and better the lives of people in her community.

“I want to open my practice in my village and help my community. I also want to build my family a big house,” she said.

Mthembu was lost for words with excitement about Nomfundo’s achievements and praised her for her respect and dedication.

“I do not see her as my brother’s daughter, she is my first-born child. We are very happy as a family, we are delighted for her. This is more than what we expected.

“We expected her to be one of the best in our district or maybe even in the province but we did not expect her to be one of the top achievers in the country. We are very proud of her. She deserves this. From a young age, she has been dedicated and works hard,” he said.

Another top achiever, Jonas Moshabi from Seritarita High School in Mokopane, Limpopo, said dreams come true.

“I have always wanted to be here [as a top achiever] and it shows that all the hard work and the sleepless nights that I have had have paid off,” said Jonas.

He said study groups and sharing information with peers helped him.

“Teaching each other where one struggles and one is strong can come in handy. The one challenge that I encountered was with load shedding as we had no electricity for weeks if not a month and I wasn’t able to study at night but I worked hard,” said Jonas.

He said his favorite subject is mathematics and is planning on studying medicine at the University of Cape Town.