Anushqah van der Ventel has become known in Cape Town as the girl from Manenberg who scored six distinctions in her Grade 12 final exams last year. In the time since her results were made public, Anushqah’s story went viral garnering close to 13 000 likes, thousands of shares and comments when a local newspaper shared her story on their Facebook page.
Anushqah got six distinctions in her final results including 84% for English, 86% for Afrikaans, 81% for Life Orientation, 85% for Geography, 93% for Business Studies, and 87% for Life Sciences. Today, Anushqah is preparing for her first week at Rhodes University in Grahamstown where she has been accepted to study Journalism.
Looked at by many as someone who has the antidote to achieving scholarly success in the face of great adversity, Anushqah has been on the front covers of newspapers, the lead story on websites and the topic of conversation on various radio stations, all asking the same question: how did she do it? The answer to that question, Anushqah says is simply consistency and dedication.
Anushqah joined Salesian Life Choices when she was a Grade 11 pupil at Manenberg High School. During that year her school had amassed a Matric* pass rate of 47.6%, one of the lowest pass rates in the province, and Anushqah was determined to give herself the best chance of success.
Leaders’ Quest is an intervention that works with Grade 11, 12 and post matric youth from low income communities. It combines academic tu-toring, leadership training and experiential activities. “When I heard about the programme I knew I wanted to join, because of the tutoring and leadership training. Schools in Manenberg, have high class numbers and we don’t always have the resources to educate ourselves, and I believe that through the programme I would get access to opportunities and better my chances,” says Anushqah.
Speaking about her school career and the challenges she has faced within her community, Anushqah points to the green corrugated iron gate that separates her house from the road that is riddled with bullet holes, a result of continuous gang violence in the area.
“Sometimes it was dif-ficult studying while the gangsters were shooting at each other in the field close to my house, but strangely, it gave me more motivation to push myself. Leaders’ Quest’ leadership training really helped with that because whenever I would get distracted and think about what was happening outside, I would remember what we were taught and remain positive and mindful about what I needed to do. I also learned breathing exercises that helped a lot.”
Anushqah adds: “When I came to tutoring on a Saturday it felt good to be able to talk to my peers and coaches about future goals and getting advice that I was not getting elsewhere.”
One such peer who motivated Anushqah is Siyamthanda Dyasi, a fellow Leaders’ Quest participant who earned five distinctions in his final results and ranked in the Western Cape’s top 20 Matrics in 2014. “At the beginning of the Grade 12 year, Salesian Life Choices gave us an opportunity to meet matrics of the previous year, one of them was Siyamthanda. When he told us that he matriculated with five distinctions I remember asking him how he did it. He told us that we must be consistent and revise our work from the beginning of the year. I took his advice and did exactly that. I also used techniques like mind-mapping.”
Anushqah says that she is grateful for everything that has happened in her life, because along with the difficulties came opportunities, that has changed the trajectory of her life. “When I joined the programme I wanted to be a teacher. Thanks to Salesian Life Choices I was on radio and television and I really enjoyed it. It opened my mind to a different world and decided to be part of it.”
Inspiring people across the city, Anushqah’s hard work has been recognised by many generous Capetonians who have donated generously to assist in covering the R89 000 she needed for residence and tuition at Rhodes University. Giving life to her dreams of becoming a news anchor. Paying it forward, Anushqah recently spent time at Salesian Life Choices offices with current Grade 12s in a bid to motivate and advise them. “It felt good being able to share knowledge that I have learned at the organisation. I hope that they will benefit from it as much as I have.”