Hard work pays off for Aloe High’s top matric

Innocent Biringanine achieved six distinctions.

Top pupil at Aloe Senior Secondary School advises the matric class of 2021 to start working hard from the word go.

Innocent Biringanine, 17, from Delft, who completed his national senior certificate last year and met the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, will be studying audiology at the University of Cape Town this year.

The Congolese born student attained 95% for mathematics, 91% for physical science, 90% for life orientation, 89% for life sciences, 84% for geography, 83% for English home language, and 71% for Afrikaans first additional language.

He is, however, unable to pay his registration fees of R28 000 and a further R70 000 for his tuition. Being foreign student, said Innocent, has put him on the back foot in terms of financial aid.

Innocent, his brother Godfrey and their mother Prisca moved to South Africa in 2010 and lived in Heinz Park.

He attended Springdale Primary School, then Aloe Junior high school and Aloe Senior, all in Lentegeur.

Innocent said last year, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown restrictions, had been challenging for him and his family.

His mother, an informal trader in Town Centre, is their sole breadwinner.

“I made many sacrifices. I stayed up many nights to ensure I was up to date with my school work,” he said.

Innocent said if pupils did not start working right away, they may be overwhelmed by the workload.

“I believe in hard work and not in luck,” he said.

“If you work hard, you will achieve and I wish them the best of luck,” he said.

His mathematics teacher Eric Lefson, who only started at the Lentegeur school last year, said he had only known Innocent for about two months before the national lockdown was put in place.

Mathematics teacher Eric Lefson and pupil Innocent Biringanine, who achieved 95% for this subject.

“Ninety-nine percent of the credit to Innocent’s achievement goes to him. He was well driven and all I could do was provide the material to prepare for the exams,” he said.

Mr Lefson said that two days before the matric mock examination, they had completed the syllabus and that when not at school, Innocent would work on his own.

Matriculants missed about three months of school time and were present for at least eight of their 10-month year.

“Many of our pupils needed face-to-face teaching time. We did not have online options because pupils either did not have data or a device,” he said, describing the lack of school time and being digitally under-resourced as a disaster.

Mr Lefson said he was even more concerned for the matric class of 2021 because their Grade 11 academic basics were not necessarily secure before moving to the next grade because of the lockdown.

“They are kind of going into this year with both their hands tied behind their backs,” he said.

He said that the most of the school’s pupils received a meal at school.

Principal Envil Wertheim said he was blown away by Innocent’s achievement.

Aloe Senior High School top pupil Innocent Biringanine and principal Envil Wertheim.

“He is a beautiful kid. A lovely child with a beautiful soul,” he said.

Mr Wertheim said via a Project Ignite contact they had been able to secure a bursary for Innocent.

The project, founded in 2017, is a micro-grant programme that funds and supports experiences for inspiring pupils and young adults.

Last year Mr Wertheim wrote an open letter detailing the myriad of hurdles schools in poor neighbourhoods faced – including overcrowding, a lack of resources, and staff shortages – making it impossible for them to stay open while Covid-19 infections continued to climb (“Schools ‘not ready’ for Covid-19”, Plainsman July 8).

Earlier this week again he spoke about the inequalities between privileged and underprivileged schools – saying that there was “no real will to change the system”.

Mr Wertheim said he had 1 130 pupils and 32 teachers, which was a far cry from the better resourced and bigger budgets of privileged schools, just a stone’s throw-away.

“I fight and a lot of principals, from schools like mine, fight inequality everyday,” he said.