BRICKLAYER'S DAUGHTER TAKES TOP HONOURS IN GRADE 12
By Esme Rusberg
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
WINDHOEK, 17 JAN (NAMPA) - Her smiling face greeted thousands of Namibians on the front pages of almost all local newspapers on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday however, the 18-year-old Annastasia Mukanda was in tears when she spoke to Nampa about being the best overall performer nationally in the Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC) Ordinary Level examinations for 2012.
Describing her tears as tears of fear for what lies ahead, the former St Boniface College learner said she is now confident that she will one day take her family out of poverty.
?I was shocked and I did not expect it. I thought Andreas Hungamo (who landed in second place in the top ten) would be the top guy, because he was always the best performing learner,? she said.
Mukanda was born in Juiru village, situated some 30 kilometres (km) from Rundu, on 28 September 1994.
She was raised by her father, Markus Mukanda, who was employed by NamWater. She started her school career at DT Jovitha Pre-Primary School after which she proceeded to Rudolph Ngondo Primary School.
She then moved on to St Boniface College, where she completed Grade 12 with top marks.
What makes her story remarkable is the challenges she faced while in high school.
Mukanda?s father was incarcerated in 2010, a situation which led to her having to look to her mother, Appolonia Lekuwa who is employed as a bricklayer, to pay her school fees. Her father died in prison last year, and as can be expected, her mother struggled to put bread on the table for Mukanda and her two younger brothers aged six and seven.
She was then forced to move in with her aunt where she said life was not pleasant as her mother?s job took her to different towns around the country.
Making matters worse was the fact that her aunt had a bar at her house, something which made it difficult for the young Mukanda to study, and so she used to study at the boarding school.
?I used to sacrifice my Saturdays while the other learners were doing their sports activities at the boarding school,? she said when asked how she made it to the top.
Two more factors which she felt led to her success as the top NSSCO performer were hard work and motivation from her teachers.
Another thing which gave her the strength to focus on her schoolwork was her dream to relieve her mother of her struggles as seeing her doing bricklaying work in order to make a living and pay her school fees was hard for the youngster.
?I felt so bad seeing my mother doing bricklaying work because sometimes she would complain of backache, but she had no choice but to do it for us,? she said.
She was fortunate enough to receive funds from the German Rotary Club, which sponsored her last two terms at school in 2012, after her father passed away in April 2012.
Mukanda, who has already set her sights on pursuing a career as a defence lawyer, said that although she has gone through many hardships in her life she tries not to dwell on them. Instead, she focuses on her education because she believes it will bring her a better future.
For now though, the next hurdle she has to overcome is the financing of her studies at the University of Namibia (Unam) which she has already has been accepted to.
When Nampa spoke to her on Wednesday, Mukanda had an interview at the Law Society of Namibia lined up for her for a scholarship.
?If I do not get that scholarship, I guess I have to go back to Rundu and find a job in order to save up for tuition,? she said.
Mukanda is hoping that accomplishing her goal of becoming a lawyer will help her to eliminate her family's worries about when they will get their next meal.
Another hope is that her brothers will be able to attend better schools in future as according to her, the reality is that the level of education at different schools is not the same.
Mukanda's mother spoke to Nampa from Keetmanshoop where she is currently working, saying she is overjoyed at her daughter?s achievement.
She said she knows every child wants to be with their mother, adding that it is unfortunate that she could not be by her daughter?s side as she has to move around to various towns when the bricklaying job opportunities arises.
Lekuwa also expressed the hope that Mukanda will receive financial aid for her studies as her salary of N.dollars 50 per day, if there is work available, makes it impossible for her to pay for the studies.
This is the eighth year St Boniface lands in top position in the ordinary level Grade 12 results.
Speaking on Wednesday just after the results were released to the media, St Boniface principal Mary Phillis Yesudasan emphasised the importance of hard work, saying learners and teachers at her school start working hard from the beginning of the school year.
?It is also discipline and support from the principal, teachers and the administration that lead to the success of these learners,? she said.
Every year, the school aims to complete their syllabus by the end of the second term, leaving the third term for examination practice.
Yesudasan added that the relationship between parents and the school is part and parcel of their ability to be the top performing school.
?Some people say that our school is number one because we have the best learners at our school. But it is actually through hard work and commitment that we make ordinary learners, extraordinary,? she said.