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Don’t leave talented pupils stranded, build bridges for them

Ideas

Don’t leave talented pupils stranded, build bridges for them

The number of top matrics falling through the cracks of university admission calls for a revamp of the system

Columnist

In the past few weeks, I have found myself dealing with a tragic situation: top matriculants who did not apply to university. It is easy to judge: why on earth did they not apply last year like every other student? Why should they receive special treatment? All of that makes sense in a perfect world where people have perfect information and systems work perfectly for those who live perfect middle class lives. Not so for Joy, Silumko and Tonderayi (not their real names).

Joy comes from Wentworth, an area outside Durban known for gang violence, economic hardship and distressed youth. I have been there to speak at schools, motivate children and recruit the best among them for my previous university. It is a grey place filled with people with blank faces. And yet it produced a pupil with 99% in real mathematics; I double checked the marks to be sure, and they were real. Why did she not apply in advance? The anticipation of financial hardship for the family if she did.

Silumko is from Cala, a village in the rural Eastern Cape. His matric marks sound impossible (86, 81, 88, 94, 94, 97, 99) for any child, let alone someone from a disadvantaged school. I checked the marks with Umalusi, the standards setting body, and it confirmed they were accurate. Why did he not send in application forms in 2021? He did. Two universities gave him the run around, one wanting an additional test. Dead serious. So now Silumko is stranded...

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