My SSP Experience: Vuyolwethu Nkosi
I was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. I grew up in a humble home in KwaMashu with my older twin half-sisters, my granny, my mother and my father. I attended Clarence Primary school, where I completed Grade 1. In 2002, in the middle of Grade 2, my father passed away from pneumonia. My grandfather had passed away a few months before and therefore, my mother’s family home in Soweto was vacant. Seeking a new start, my mother and I moved to Soweto, Johannesburg, to live in the family home. I then went on to complete my primary education at IR Griffiths Primary School in Blairgowrie, Randburg.
Faced with the uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to attend high school, my mother and I started to seek funding. In the midst of my Grade 6 year, 2007, I was chosen to apply for the Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP) award by my head of school. Coincidently, my mother had also come across the SSP application forms whilst searching online (fate now that I look back on it). At the end of 2007 I wrote the entrance examinations and was called for an interview in March of 2008. After an extensive, rigorous, character-developing bridging programme, I was awarded a scholarship at the end of 2008 to attend one of South Africa’s leading all-girl independent schools, Kingsmead College. That moment I mark as one of my biggest accomplishments and an experience that has shaped my life and defined who I am.
When I first entered Kingsmead College, I immediately knew that it was not just going to be a school, but rather, a second home for me.
I was warmly greeted by Mrs. Wilkinson (school co-coordinator), the former SSP girls and best of all, Mrs. Kaplan; who would not only be my Headmistress but also someone who would really care for me and be an exemplary role-model.
As big a transition as it was for me, the community which was Kingsmead College helped me adapt very quickly; with warm smiles and embraces from the girls, and equal treatment from the teachers, who did not make us feel like a number in their classrooms, but like true individuals. Although everything was going well with school, there were still challenges that I faced, such as transport and participation in school events. As a result of me living very far from school, I had to take two buses, which meant that I had to wake up very early (04:45) to be at school on time at 07:30. My mother and I navigated the different bus routes and systems until we finally found one which was most suitable for me.
Since I didn’t have a convenient mode of transportation, my participation in school events was very limited for my first year. However, in Grade 9 I found friends who helped me with this and from then on, if I needed accommodation because of a school event and activity, I knew that the Pillays, Rose-Weirs and Phathelas would open their homes to me.
In Grade 10 I began studying Advanced Programme Mathematics, and I achieved 100% in two successive cycle tests, which was marked as a first in the history of Kingsmead College. In Grade 11, I was afforded the amazing opportunity to go to the United States of America, with five other candidates, as part of the first annual St Luke’s School/SSP leadership and cultural exchange, which just fuelled my pursuit of excellence even more. This experience taught me so much about myself and opened up windows of opportunities and goals to a much wider sphere. My view about where I wanted to go in my life was no longer limited to what I knew, but to what I wanted to explore.
In 2012, I was elected to serve in Kingsmead’s Matric Dance Committee, a committee which planned and executed the matric for that year’s matrics of Kingsmead College. In 2013, I was elected the Grade 9 Leader at Kingsmead College.This was an honour to me as I got to interact with the younger grades of the school, whilst serving the school and practicing the Action Centered Leadership skills taught to us (a leadership course which we attended at the close of 2012). The knowledge, skills and experiences that I have received from Kingsmead College and the Student Sponsorship Programme have contributed immensely to my future and the direction thereof.
Through the years, I have learnt that I am very resilient, strong, adaptable and a role-model to my community. I have developed a self-confidence and belief in myself which I never had before because of the support structures that SSP has provided for me. I “leave” SSP with many life-long friendships and mentors. The reason why I say “leave” in inverted commas is because I know that one can never leave their family. I may have left the SSP nest, but through the five years of wisdom, knowledge and courage that they have built in me, I soar like an eagle but will always come to rest at home.
SSP is not just a scholarship; SSP identifies excellence and cultivates it to develop the future’s pioneers for change and world domination. Yes, without SSP I would never have had the opportunity of attending such an amazing school, but more importantly, without SSP, Kingsmead and my mother, I would never have developed into the mature, wise, courageous, ready-to-take-on-the-world-and-succeed, hard-working, resilient, independent and worldly young woman that I am today.