Mauhicia Gilbert, the only matriculant in Freedom Park Informal Settlement, in Ottery, in 2021, attributes her success to her role model, a teacher at Lotus High School who encouraged her to be successful.
Mauhicia,18, said being a daughter of a single mother, did not deter her from attending school when she had to step in to see to the house, cook and look after her younger sister Felicia.
”After I cooked and cleaned the house, I would sit with my work late at night,” she told Southern Mail.
Mauhicia said that when her dad died when she was in Grade 8, “it was very hard for me as he used to look after me”.
However, Mauhicia decided to push ahead and keep working hard, even if only to “give my sister hope”.
There were times when Mauhicia felt like giving up but her favourite teacher, Karen Grosch, would encourage her to stay in school. “She always asked me how things were at home and she pushed me not to give up.”
Ms Grosch said: “I got to know Mauhicia for the first time in 2018 in my Grade 10 history class. She was at first very aloof and had no self confidence and showed very little interest in her school work. Her group of friends at the time displayed the same mannerisms. She subsequently failed her Grade 10 year (in) 2018. She did, however, pass history but just barely.
Ms Grosch said: “I was happy when she returned in 2019 to repeat Grade 10. I had a one-on-one chat with her and that is when she opened up to me about her circumstances and personal challenges. I spelt out to her the importance of education and how it could ‘free’ her from her circumstances.”
Ms Grosch said Mauhicia started to focus and gain confidence and her results gradually improved. “She passed unaided to Grade 11 in 2020. I was now both her class and history educator. Our bond grew stronger.”
However, said Ms Grosch, the Covid-19 pandemic aggravated Mauhicia’s personal circumstances.
“Mauhicia tried her best to remain focused, with support of our school SBST (School Based Support Team) which I co-ordinate, as well as our Metro South Education District school psychologist and Social Services,” said Ms Grosch.
“She passed her matric and made me proud with her good result especially in history as she developed a passion for the subject.”
Principal Benjamin Pietersen said Mauhicia had initially been a “very withdrawn and quiet girl”.
“I am very proud of all our matriculants’ achievements, despite their circumstances.”
Mauhicia said she would like to join the army but registration is only open next year. “Meanwhile, I have applied to Metro police and SAPS. I would like to be a social worker, in any of the above departments.”