By MALIBONGWE DAYIMANI and NONSINDISO QWABE
Bright matrics Anelisa Marwaqana of Mariazell Senior Secondary in Maluti district in Matatiele and Siphokazi Hlakulana of Holy Cross High in Mthatha walked away with the Premier’s Award last night for their achievements.
They were awarded bursaries, laptops and notepads after being in the top 20 performers at last night’s celebration of matric achievers at the East London ICC.
Marwaqana scored the second highest marks in the country in the quintile 1 school category (no-fee school in a rural area) and Hlakulana came second nationally in the category of quintile 3 (no fee school in an urban area).
Eastern Cape MEC for education Mandla Makupula said of the bursaries worth R100000 a year – covering tuition and accommodation – would last until the students finish their studies, and provided they finish within the minimum time.
“My office will cover everything for the students for as long as the student continues to pass.”
Makupula said the achievements of the two matrics was proof the Eastern Cape produced the finest students at national level.
“We might have come last in terms of the number of learners passed, but if you look at the statistics, we came number five in the country for producing the largest number of bachelor passes. So it is about quality not quantity.
“These two raised the bar and flew the flag of the province up high nationally. In the Eastern Cape we produce the best,” said the MEC.
The top achieving district in the province was Cradock, with a pass rate of 81% putting them on par with top achieving districts in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Hlakulana got the shock of her life when she received a call inviting her to have breakfast with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Wednesday morning.
Little did she know she would be joined by Marwaqana.
It is the bursary Marwaqana received back in 2014 which made her life easier, enabling her to focus strictly on her studies. Coming from the rural Eastern Cape, she thrived amid a difficult environment with little to no resources.
“Being the second best pupil in quintile 1 and having been invited to the provincial awards ceremony is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Marwaqana.
She attributed her success to knowing her goals, studying smart, balancing her social life with studies and getting enough rest.
This year she will be pursuing her studies in actuarial sciences at Wits University while Hlakulana will study applied maths at the University of Pretoria.
Education MEC Mandla Makupula praised the two young women as a good example that the “sky is no limit, and gender is no barrier”.
He said: “You had to pay attention to hear that the two children who received top awards were from this province. That was a small number compared to what we are known for,” he said.
The MEC was referring to the province’s achievement in the matric class of 2015, when Kukhokuhle Tsengwa of St Johns College in Mthatha was awarded top honours for being an overall winner in the maths and science category. Along with him was Aviwe Blackbird, also from St John’s College.
Makupula said such achievements at a national level confirmed that as a province “we are able to compete with the best”.