Giving ill-starred smart kids a helping hand is a no-brainer

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Giving ill-starred smart kids a helping hand is a no-brainer

FREE TO READ | We need to prevent exceptional students from being tripped up by funding hurdles and falling into grinding poverty

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Nkosinathi Gumede* is in trouble. A fourth-year medical student at a top Cape Town university, his results are impeccable. He made the news in 2015 for gaining nine distinctions in his matric year at a township school in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Even as he started university studies, he was tutoring pupils in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha. This model student ticked all the boxes. Then, disaster struck.

Without warning, Nkosinathi’s circumstances changed. His family started to feel the strain. This past Christmas was one of the saddest ever – there was no food in the house. It was all just too much so the young man made a decision to withdraw from university and find work.

Having taught and led many students like Nkosinathi over the years, I discovered something very interesting about this particular group of high flyers. They drop out not because of poor academic results but because of an unexpected change of circumstance that shatters a dream and a family. A father is retrenched. The only working sibling in the home dies. An application for funding is misplaced...

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