In Conversation with Thando Zwane (Grade 9, St. Stithian’s Girls’ College)

Thando Zwane of St. Stithian’s Girls’ College with her grandfather, Solomon Zwane and SSP Executive Director, Nozizwe Vundla.

Grade 8 Scholar, Thando Zwane of St. Stithian’s Girls’ College, was the Dux Scholar in 2017. It was a surprise for Thando – “I wasn’t expecting that at all! It was amazing and I’m so grateful, I’m blessed.”

Being Dux Scholar “has put me under a lot of pressure, but I am better under pressure – the fear of the future urges me to do better. I have to bounce back.”

Raised by her 97-year-old grandfather in Katlehong Township on the East Rand of Johannesburg, she as a boarder at St. Stithian’s Girls’, she was initially homesick at school, but soon felt part of the family – “The other girls I stay with are like sisters – we encourage each other, and it has really helped me to adjust.”

How has St. Stithian’s helped her?

Schooling at St. Stithian’s has “taught me to be even more mature about life – and whilst I am there, I see that I need to put in twice the amount of effort than anybody else, I have to work ten times harder to reach that standard that everyone has set for me, and that I have set for myself”.

She continues, “It has taught me to prepare for life. Now I find school hard, but I know when I’m done, university is going to be that much harder. Life itself is going to be harder. I feel like it is preparing me for life”.

The experience is positive and “we deal with real issues such as gender issues, and I am so grateful. I am now more capable of doing things that I could never imagine. It has helped me to grow.”

What do the Zwanes think about education and SSP’s role in it?

Sitting alongside her grandfather, Solomon Zwane, Mkhulu Zwane shares that he grew up herding cattle in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, and had no formal schooling.

When asked how important he believes education is, Mkhulu Zwane says, “I didn’t have any, it wasn’t easy if you were poor. I value education”. When asked about the youth of today, he replies, “The responsibility is on the children to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered to them”.

When asked about the impact SSP has had on his granddaughter’s life, he “is really grateful.” Thando expresses appreciation for her SSP opportunity: “I am really happy about this, I am going to carry on studying hard!”

What are Thando’s future plans?

She plans to study oncology or become a bypass surgeon. Thando wants to pursue how to beat cancer. Her choice of a career in medicine is because her other grandfather died of cancer, and the family couldn’t afford private hospitals. “Our old grandpas need doctors like Doctors Without Borders.”

Thando encourages future SSP Scholars – “They need to know that they are more than deserving, and they should definitely take this opportunity because it may only come once.”