Dedication earns Ayakha study bursary

Ayakha Melithafa with members of the Department of Water and Sanitation through its 2020 Vision Education wing including Miss Earth Margo Adonisi, SabeloMagaqane and Zolile Simawo.

The future looks bright for Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) pupil Ayakha Melithafa as her family no longer have to worry about funding her tertiary studies.

Cosat is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focused school based in Khayelitsha.

The Grade 12 pupil, from Eerste River, who stays with her single mother and four siblings, is a climate justice activist who loves the environment and all that surrounds us.

At school she is known to be an academic all-rounder and her passion for the earth has earned her a bursary, which she received from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) through its 2020 Vision Education wing, on Wednesday March 11.

Just after receiving the bursary in a full hall, she screamed with joy. Like any other township family, her family is just an average income family who have had to forego many luxuries. Her family has struggled to pay the fees for her two siblings who are at tertiary institutions.

My mother doesn’t have to worry about paying for my studies now. I have seen how students struggle to apply for assistance at high level. I don’t have to worry about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme anymore,” she said.

She aims to pursue her tertiary studies in environmental science, environmental law or earth science.

“I want to bring awareness to a lot of environmental issues. There are a lot of things that we do not take cognisance of like water, drought and our environment at large,” she said.

According to her proud mother Nokulunga (Melithafa) and school, she is a wonderful young woman.

The happy mother has said she is relieved by the news but has one concern – would she pass matric.

“She is a wonderful kid and I am proud of her and her siblings. This is a relief for me because I do not have to worry about fees. But it also puts pressure on her to pass her matric. That is the challenge she is now facing,” said Ms Melithafa.

According to the department, the bursary aims to empower students who are excelling in environmental issues. It said they have been following Ayakha with her advocacy around environmental issues even on social media.

“She is such an inspiration. We as the department are big on youth empowerment. We are so proud of the work she is doing. She kept on advocating for the environment. If you remember well she was mentioned by the President during the State of the Nation speech,” said Miss Earth, Margo Adonisi.

Ayakha is known for advocating a low-carbon footprint in her community of Eerste River. She also pushes for the inclusion of diverse voices in climate activism.

Last year, she took part in the United Nations high level talks on climate at which Swedish climate activist Greta Thunburg led the youths.

Her principal Phadilea Cooper said she was honoured to have Ayakha in their midst and thanked her staff for making sure that children from Cosat were doing well.

“Our ex-pupils are also doing well wherever they are. We have a hand in (their success). We are delighted that our pupils have stuck with us. We want them not to underestimate their potential and talent. Well done to Ayakha. We are very proud of her and others,” she said.