Mawande Nohononwana is a talented and tenacious student who matriculated in 2015 from Dudumayo Senior Secondary School with some excellent results! In 2016, you might meet him in a UWC lecture hall, or perhaps cracking jokes in the quads – or blowing the whistle on Touch Rugby penalties – Whichever way, watch out for his dead-pan quick wit and drive! Here’s a little more of his story…
Tell us a little about you – Who is Mawande?
Mawande is someone who believes in hard work. That means someone who believes that there’s no life without working hard. Who knows that his better future depends on his hands.
He is someone who takes everyone around him as a family member.
You got some excellent matric results. How did you do it?
As I said I believe in working hard. So at the start of grade 12, I didn’t wait for finals to come – I just worked hard from the beginning. I started reading my books, practising, working hard at school. I got extra examples to practise, extra information to use from Axium at Ekukhuleni on Saturdays. I didn’t take Axium for granted, because I’ve seen from the start that if I attend Axium well, I will pass. I didn’t get much free time – I was in my books, reading and practising.
Also, I wasn’t selfish. I was working with my classmates. We discussed what was hard, what needed to be discussed. I used to be a tutor. What I got during the day I gave to my classmates at night, so that it stuck well in my mind.
What was your favourite subject last year? Why?
Does it have to be one?
Mathematics and Life Sciences.
Mathematics is my favourite because when I practice maths, then my mind feels freshened. And also, I like numbers. What I like about life sciences is that it’s about life. I like anything that is related to life. Life science teaches us about what is going on in our lives. Another thing that made me like these two subjects is that the teachers were active.
What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get through matric?
Poverty was a great challenge. A challenge that might lead other people to drop out of school. I was studying and it was hard for me to go to school and focus because I was always hungry. There was no food at my house. I would eat at school at 12:00, and then eat at 12:00 again the next day.
Also, our principal wanted us to have night classes and it was scary to go to school at night. There are people looking for students to rob them, and rape the girls. Some girls were beaten by people. And my house that I was renting wasn’t safe. If I was at school at night I had to be worried because criminals could enter and take anything they wanted. So while I was studying I got worried. This is bad. If you study, you have to study free. You think about the books you are reading or the maths you are practising… You don’t want any stress. My house was just a stresser! It was also inadequate for rainy days.
There was also the problem of losing our principal, Mr Petse. And losing our maths and physical science teachers. We didn’t have a science teacher from July. Mr Petse died in June, and maybe a month later our science teacher left, and we didn’t have another one.
One last sad memory… It wasn’t a hurricane, because the direction was wrong. It was coming from west to east, and it wasn’t a mid-latitude cyclone because it wasn’t the season for mid-latitude cyclones to occur in SA. I don’t know what I can say, but a strong blowing wind took off the roof of my house when I was at school one night. Then I had nowhere to sleep. I had to sleep in that house with no roof. I had no neighbours I know. That’s not my area, I’m renting there. Then I had to look for another house after school the next day. Luckily I found one.
What were the highlights of your matric year?
My matric group members. Yanga Blayi was one of them. He was very committed, a great worker. He is the one that I learnt how to work hard from. When I was a junior, I was never reading my books, but he and others have taught me to read books.
And Mr Sithelo. He’s a teacher who taught us night maths. He has a school where he teaches – but when we wanted him, he was always there for us. He would drive from his area to Ngcwanguba to teach us at night. He is the reason why I got a distinction for mathematics. I can’t forget him. He was committed to his work, he deserves the best.
And what are your plans from here?
I have applied to universities and got accepted at UWC and NMMU. I’ve applied for nursing because I took myself for granted – I didn’t think I could qualify for courses that are more than nursing. I like nursing, but not more than medicine. So I think I will start with nursing, then maybe in September I ask if I could change to medicine. Or I might study this for four years, and then credit it to medicine.
I’ve chosen to go to UWC because I don’t just want to study, but I also want to continue playing touch rugby – because I like it. It’s like the maths. It also freshens my mind. There are many skills, many things to do in Touch when you are on the ground. You have to always think – what must I do when I receive the ball from that man? How do I face this man coming? I like using my mind. I also want to continue with my refereeing course. I have a level 1 certificate and I want to continue to level 3. So maybe I’ll be a nurse and an official ref – maybe even at the World Cup one day. When the Zithulele Tigers are in Cape Town or Durban, maybe I’ll ref for them. But that doesn’t mean that they will win because I am not corrupt, I am an honest man.
(Editor’s note – Mawande has been a stalwart member of the Zithulele Tigers, the elite touch rugby squad, as well as a coach for the developing schools league. Check out some of the highlights from their recent tour to Jozi…)
If you were the president of South Africa – what five items would be on the meeting agenda for your first day in the office?
(Editors note – In characteristic style, Mawande opted for a full blown presidential speech, rather than a meeting agenda.)
I stand here before you people. I would like to address five things that I would like the government of South Africa to do. Firstly, we must put education first. People should value education because almost everything today depends on education. Secondly, we must address poverty – because a learner cannot study well if he is hungry. Thirdly, South Africa needs improved healthcare facilities. There are deep rural areas where there are no roads or hospitals around. In those areas, people die because they have no money for transport, no emergency transport services and no mobile clinics. So the death rate is high there. There should be roads constructed to improve access to hospitals, or even to mobile clinics. And also, more than that, the Department of Health should build more hospitals in those deep rural areas.
Fourthly, we need to increase access to electricity. In many homes, when children want to study they don’t have a light or lamp, so it’s not easy for them to study at night. Electricity will make it easy for them to study, and the pass rate in South Africa will increase.
Lastly, while we have about three water transfer schemes in South Africa (such as Lesotho highlands), many areas here still have no access to safe drinking water. So, children or people of those areas drink unhealthy water, and that leads to water borne diseases like cholera. The only way to address that is to provide healthy, safe drinking water.
We will ensure that this time that I am president of South Africa, all of these things will happen. I’ve seen many presidents say these things many times, but they do not do them. But I promise you, people of South Africa, while I am president you will see miracles. These things will happen. Because I know your lives depend on food. I know your lives depend on water. I know your lives depend on hospitals. I know your future depends on education. Thank you.
What advice would you give students at high schools around here as they begin their matric year?
Let me say what I was telling myself while I was in matric.
Maybe it will be a different thing for others because we come from different families. I come from a poor family but this did not discourage me. Instead, I got encouraged. Whenever I faced all those challenges I’ve listed above, I said to myself, I see this challenge but I am here at school. What I’m here for is to get better results at the end of three years so that my parents do not regret spending a lot of money to try to provide me with a better future. So let me worry not about this challenge, and think about my family and my parents, because if I put my focus on this challenge I will fail at school. And also, whenever I worked I told myself: I don’t just work. I work so that I can get opportunities to get into university so that I will qualify for the course I want to study for. I want to work for my family because for their home to be better for the future, it depends on me. And also, my parents trusted me so I didn’t want to let their heart break. I didn’t want to hurt them. That is why I worked hard and ensured that I passed each year.
So to you grade 12’s I usually say this even to grade tens:
A friend is someone to be trusted because every time you need help, you have to go to your friend and ask for help. But be careful of the friends you choose. You have to look carefully before you choose a friend. Because like me, I am from a poor family so if I get to be a friend of someone who is from a rich family and he/she influences me – maybe to smoke – or to do all these bad things, that will affect my education. So I say make sure you choose a good friend. Also, think back on your family. Think of the love of your parents. Think about how they will get disappointed if you fail. And lastly, think of your future, and where you want to see yourself being in your future.