Fezile Dabi district’s Rising Star: Introducing Thabo Nkopane

Thabo Nkopane is a 17-year-old matriculant from Kanalelo Secondary School which falls within the Fezile Dabi district where KST, in partnership with the Free State Department of Education implement the District Whole School Development programme since 2013.

Nkopane was born and raised amongst four siblings in Kroonstad, Marabastad. Due to a change in family circumstances, when Thabo was in Grade six, he and his family relocated to Siso. His youngest sibling was born in August 2020 and, “having a new baby in the house was an adjustment for me as we live in a three-room house in which my siblings and I share a bedroom, I therefore used the kitchen as my study area to ensure that I studied with minimal disturbance,” said Nkopane.

The Class of 2020 needed to mature and adapt quickly and develop resilience to overcome many challenges including a global COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden and brutal pandemic imposed hard lockdown regulations which led to the abrupt closure of schools leading to a loss of teaching and learning time. The lockdown also exposed the gap and opportunity to improve the integration of e-learning and the use of technology in curriculum delivery. The limited teaching and learning time propelled the Class of 2020 to take more ownership and responsibility of their academic year with support from the Free State Department of Education and its partners who have an invested interest in education.

Speaking to KST about his journey to the NSC examinations, Nkopane says “As part of our preparation for the final NSC exams, KST mentors told us that matric is easy – all you have to do is be prepared. I started preparing early in the year, especially during the first national lockdown. That period was very productive and fruitful for me. I was able to persevere through my academic challenges. I asked myself what I could do to improve and meet my 95% target for Physical Science and Mathematics, and by challenging myself I attained 96% in Physical Science and 87% in Mathematics in my prelim exams.

I could not have achieved this improvement without the support and motivation from our two mentors Mr Moyo and Mr Tom. Another anchor of support was my Principal Mr Sefuli, who only joined our school in when schools reopened in July 2020. Mr Sefuli would take the time to check on us during our lunch break so he could get to know us. He noticed that I was a hard worker and gave me motivational talks and an inner view of what life is mostly about. He helped me get through the hardships of studying with a new-born baby in a small home and taught me that challenges are there to help us push further to eliminate our problems for a stronger come back,” said Nkopane.

Nkopane has applied to the National Student Finaincal Aid Scheme as well as Morshal bursary to study Chemical Engineering or Medicine at the University of Cape Town. “Chemical Engineers have the knowledge to save the world. They develop products that we use daily and make our lives easier such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, vehicles. What attracted me to Chemical Engineering was its ability to be a catalyst to the end poverty, and fight diseases. I want to contribute to changing people’s lives”.

“The most challenging problems that we as young people face is the inability to deal with our own challenges and the lack of confidence to pursue anything we want to do. Any dream is possible, and we need to embrace the challenges that we may face. My Grade 10 teacher once told me that everyone in life has their own problems, they may differ, but they are there. It’s like a car, it needs sufficient petrol or diesel to function – similarly with us as human beings, these problems fuel us so that our dreams aren’t shattered. It is one’s choice to either waste or use the fuel effectively. As we conquer our different challenges, we may be encouraged to fight harder and make a success of ourselves,” concluded Nkopane.