Game, set and perfect match: teaching dream born on a tennis court
Reporter who spotted Gansbaai youngster's talent helped make his education dream come true
It was a chance encounter on a tennis court that changed the life of a young man who always dreamed of becoming an Afrikaans teacher.
Now, he says, he can only look back in gratitude to the people who gave him hope when he had none.
Having matriculated from Hermanus High School, Liandro Lodewyk sat at home in Gansbaai for three years with no hope and no job.
Coming from a poor background, the 25-year-old was a self-taught tennis player, having watched players on TV, and would often be seen on the local courts. This is where he caught the eye of former investigations editor at the Daily Dispatch, Eddie Botha.
In 2015, Botha moved to Gansbaai and joined the tennis club. “There weren’t many players but Liandro caught my eye. He was a terrific player and he learnt it all from watching TV.” One day at the club, Botha asked Lodewyk what he wanted to be in life and the youngster answered without hesitation: an Afrikaans teacher.
Botha, now a freelance reporter, had just introduced Andisiwe Wulana, another promising youngster from the local township, to then University of the Free State vice-chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen.
Despite living in a shack in Masakhane township, Wulana graduated from Gansbaai Academia with five distinctions. Jansen rewarded her hard work with an all-expenses paid bursary to the university.
Wulana has since completed her BA in commerce and accounting, with distinction.
Despite Lodewyk’s median marks, Botha saw his potential and also introduced him to Jansen, who arranged for him to receive a rector’s bursary to study in 2016.
And that is where his success story began.
Lodewyk, now in his third year, has just been named the best education student and best overall achiever at his residence.
“I obviously didn’t expect this but I felt so honoured and privileged that my hard work paid off. To be honest, I want to achieve more. The next step is preparation for the exam, which starts in about two months.”
His goal is to obtain his degree cum laude next year.
“I always consider myself as just the average student who works really hard to reach goals that I set for myself. In high school I always got average marks but since I got to university things have really changed for me. In my first year I got six distinctions and last year I got five distinctions and was invited to the Golden Key society.
“After matriculating I was at home with no hope for a long time, but then I met Eddie Botha and things changed for me. He really took an interest in me and what my dreams were and took me by the hand.”
Lodewyk doesn’t get to play as much tennis as he would like to and can’t wait to go home and play again.
“Tennis will always be a passion of mine. It’s because of tennis that I met Eddie, who asked me what I wanted to study, so I told him that I wanted to become a teacher and he got in contact with Prof Jansen.
“I will always be thankful to those two people because they gave me hope when I had none. I’m grateful to Eddie Botha for believing in me.”
Lodewyk was partially raised by his great aunt.
“I didn’t grow up with my biological parents. My biological mom worked at the local fishing factory and had to work long hours, so my mom’s aunt looked after me and she still looks after me to this day.
“I still stay with her and her husband, whom I call my Dadda. My biological father and I don’t have a close relationship. Although I didn’t stay with my biological mom, she was still very supportive in everything I did.
“I can proudly say that I am blessed to have two moms that love and care so much for me ... and I have my Dadda that will do everything for me. He loves me and would do anything for me.”
He said even though they did not have a lot, his family made the most of what they had.
Jansen, now professor in the education faculty at Stellenbosch University, said: “There are so many Liandros spread throughout our education system who take the smallest opportunity given and turn it into gold.
“Few will realise what social, financial, emotional and intellectual barriers he has to cross to succeed. And yet he did it. This is moreover a story about how ordinary people can connect to make great things happen in the lives of individuals who then go on to make huge changes in society.
“I have been blessed to assist many such students over the years simply by working with teachers, principals and community activists with an eye for talent.”
Lodewyk says he is so grateful for the help Botha gave him.
“All I can say is a big thank you. He [Botha] is an amazing person. He didn’t have to do what he did for me, but because he is such a wonderful human he took interest in me. All I want to do is make him proud and hopefully one day I can have an influence on someone’s life like he has had on mine.
“I want to become the best teacher that I can be. I really want to make a difference in children’s lives. I just love this profession,” Lodewyk said.