Harambe Qondela is an inspiration to many young girls in Khayelitsha as she is completing her Grade 12 at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Gauteng.
The 17-year-old from Site C is the first in her community to enrol at the academy where she has spent the last four years studying.
Spaces at the academy are sought after and many pupils try their best to get an education there.
For Harambe and her parents, Ntombomzi Mcanjana and Thembinkosi Qondela, their dream was realised in 2013.
Harambe enrolled at the academy after she passed Grade 7 at St Paul’s Primary School in Bo-Kaap.
She returned home for the school holidays this month and shared with Vukani her story with the hope of inspiring other children.
She praised the academy’s teachers for their hard work, passion and dedication, but said it required guts and determination to be a member of the school.
She got to know about the school through her mother and applied with the assistance of her father. “My parents played a big role in my life.
“They want the best for me and my siblings.
“They are the reason I am now a pupil at the academy,” she told Vukani.
She said it was not easy to get enrolled at the school because of the high criteria and what is expected from pupils.
“I attended two interviews here in Cape Town and three in Gauteng including writing tests. It was draining and worrying.
“But with patience and the determination, here am I today. I would recommend others to be patient with whatever they want in life.
“It is doable and achievable.
“I guess many would not think there is someone from a Khayelitsha township at the academy,” she said. Harambe said her poor background taught her many valuable life lessons, such as responsibility, compassion and hard work.
As disadvantaged as she was growing up in Khayelitsha, she said that provided her with love and the ability to acknowledge other people.
She said what sets the academy apart from other schools is the hard work and dedication of all parties, especially the teachers.
When classes are finished there are other programmes and fun games to be engaged in, she said.
“Even now that we are on holiday, we are expected to volunteer where we live.
“We are encouraged to be part of our communities. When we go back we will submit what we have done.
“That’s the kind of academy we are in,” she added.
Harambe wishes other disadvantaged girls could have the same experience she has had at the academy.
Her proud father described his daughter as a focused girl.
“While she was still at creche she used to wake up as early as five in the morning. I used to take her to her creche in Observatory. But I must say, she is too demanding,” chuckled Mr Qondela.
“When she wants something, she does not compromise. I remember one time she sent me to a certain school that was too expensive (to apply) but by virtue of luck she got in to the academy,” he said, praising her daughter.
He said he was happy Harambe was at the academy because she showed a lot of maturity.