Overcoming the odds

ZEALOUS: Pamela Mokgawa had to live with an uncle who was diagnosed with cancer.Picture: Supplied

Four South African matriculants defied the odds and excelled in their matric examinations.

Saman Akhtar from Curro Grantleigh was diagnosed with bone cancer in the middle of her matric year. She underwent chemotherapy during the last two terms, including her final exams. Akhtar contended with severe discomfort, nausea and extreme exhaustion, but barely missed a day of school and achieved seven distinctions.

“I wasn’t about to give up. Things like this are not there to hinder you, but to test you and see if you can rise above them. I’m grateful to my family, friends and teachers who were there for me when I cried, smiled and laughed,” Akhtar said.

Like her dad, she wants to study medicine and has made it clear to her family she will not be taking a gap year.

Her mother, Aneesa Akhtar, said, as a family, they had to offer her daughter lots of emotional support.

“I’m extremely proud of her and there are no words to describe it. We had to ensure she had enough rest and ate good nutritious meals. It also helped that she has a fantastic attitude, she is very positive,” she said.

Juanita Kalunga, who was diagnosed with a serious illness in Grade 11, achieved a bachelors degree pass with a distinction in English home language.

The Curro Aurora student’s illness resulted in prolonged and debilitating pain, putting her ability to complete the school year into question.

However, her father, Jones Kalunga, said she always remained adamant that she would complete the year despite her circumstances.

“The last couple of years have been tough for her, she didn’t spend much time in class and that was my biggest concern. But I realised she wanted to achieve her goals, so she fought on. We are proud of her results,” Kalunga’s dad said.

The 18-year-old Juanita said her passion to study medicine was her biggest driving force.

Pamela Mokgawa from Northern Academy in Limpopo also achieved excellent results despite difficult personal circumstances. She achieved a bachelors degree pass, obtaining more than 70% in English home language, Afrikaans first additional language, accounting and life orientation.

Mokgawa was deserted by her father when she was young and had to live with an uncle who was diagnosed with cancer last year.

“I didn’t live with my mom and it was very hard. We found out my uncle had cancer and it was hard living with him. Keeping awake in class was the biggest challenge for me after attending extra classes four times a week until 7pm after which I still had to do household chores,” she said.

Mokgawa wants to study accounting at the University of Pretoria and set up her own firm.

Michael Groom from Grantleigh received treatment for a brain tumour in 2016, which was diagnosed in April.

His parents and school thought he would have to take the year off, but he was determined to complete the year. He achieved three distinctions in mathematics, life orientation and engineering, graphics and design.