A year ago when Siyamthanda Dyasi sat in his first matric class at I.D. Mkhise Senior Secondary School in Gugulethu, pen in hand, ready to take his first notes and brimming with the self-assurance to succeed, he had no idea that months later he would be one of the top 20 students in the Western Cape – no easy feat.
Today Siyamthanda is preparing for his first week as a BCom Accounting student at the University of Cape Town – the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.
Siyamthanda was one of the students honoured at the 2014 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Awards hosted by the Western Cape Education Department. “I was shocked and emotional when I got the call telling me I was on the top 20 merit list. I never expected it but it was proof that all my hard work paid off,” says Siyamthanda.
In this category, awards are given to candidates who have achieved excellently in the 2014 NSC examinations; included in this category are those learners who have achieved the top marks in the province. Siyamthanda got five distinctions in his final results including 92% for Accounting, 98% for Business Studies, 82% for Xhosa , 82% for Life Orientation and a 93% for Economics.
Even though Siyamthanda's school is a beacon of hope for many schools in the area, boasting one of the highest matric passes, many would say the chances are less than great that one of its students would be in the top 20 in the province, considering the large class sizes and socio-economic factors affecting them.
Siyamthanda's story banishes this idea and is both a story of success and proof that you are not your surroundings and that anything is attainable through hard work and dedication.
Growing up in Gugulethu, Siyamthanda is an only child raised by a single mother. Living with his mother in his grandmother's house, he describes his home life as "busy", always having aunts, uncles and cousins around and often having relatives staying over. “I used to lose count of how many people lived in my granny’s house, on permanent basis we were 12 but sometimes the house was fuller,” says Siyamthanda.
When asked how he achieved those excellent results, Siyamthanda simply says that he committed himself to his work and that his family played a big role in keeping him motivated. “Every single day I worked hard, I used to study for few hours during the night when everyone was a sleep. My family also supported me, they knew that I wanted to get good marks and wanted to go to university, so they respected that,” says Siyamthanda.
He also attributes his success to being involved in Life Choices Leaders’ Quest programme. “I have been part of Leaders’ Quest for the past two years. The programme offered me leadership training, extra tutoring classes and assistance in the National Benchmark Test preparation and university applications. They supported and inspired me all the way,” says Siyamthanda.
Siyamthanda was offered several bursaries to pay for his studies, “I was able to choose the bursary that paid for all my university costs. I will be studying at UCT without it costing a cent to my family,” he says.
Asked what advice he would give to the matric class of 2015, Siyamthanda says that revising every day helps a lot, and that students need to commit themselves to their work and forget about a social life. “When I was studying I would be busy with my work all week. I would get Sundays off ... sometimes,” he jokes. He adds “look for opportunities and surround yourself with people that believe in you.”
With a shy disposition but with a steely determination in his eyes, it's clear that this 17-year-old from Gugs is set to conquer the world.