Where is Gauteng’s top township learner now?

Citizen Leader Lab catches up with Gauteng’s top-achieving township learner of 2021, Raymond Mamabolo, to talk personal growth, overcoming challenges and helping others succeed. Get ready to be inspired by Mamabolo’s commitment to shaping #TheFutureWeWant.

In 2021, you were named Gauteng’s top performing township learner after obtaining distinctions in all your matric subjects. You aced Maths, Life Science and Physical Science with a 100% pass mark and expressed a desire to study actuarial science at the University of Cape Town. How is that going? What have you learnt and how have you grown as an individual?

When I was in matric, I had a burning desire to study Actuarial Science at UCT. However, during my orientation week at UCT, I realised that although Actuarial Science had many mathematical applications, it was only in fields like finance, insurance and investments. As a maths enthusiast, I wanted to study something that had mathematical applications in the real world, and in a much larger subset. I spoke to my Subject Advisor, and I decided to study Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics instead, as this would allow me to explore the theoretical applications of maths to fields like physics, biology and engineering.

So far, I have learned many incredible lessons about academics and life. One of the realities I have had to come to terms with was that the strategies and study techniques I used in matric did not work here in university. I had to learn how to approach learning for a degree. And although it took a lot of trial and error, it has been worth it.

I have always had the desire to help other people succeed, so with the help of God, I was appointed as a Maths tutor at my university and as the Head Tutor at my residence. I am grateful that I can share my experience with other students and help them do well.

You are an inspiration, particularly to the marginalised youth in South Africa. What have been the challenges you have faced in your life, and how have you overcome them?

Coming from Chipa-Tabane Comprehensive High, a township school in Cullinan, and from a low-income family, l did not have access to resources. As someone who loved studying ahead, and wanted to learn beyond what the teacher would present, not having adequate access to the internet and other resources became a huge barrier. Luckily, my school teachers were able to help me overcome this. Some of my teachers helped me even when I would call them at 1am.

I have come across another challenge as I started university: Adjusting to my new life. Experiencing a new city, a new environment and a new way of living with no family and friends, was very hard to adjust to. I would be homesick and constantly call my mother. Eventually, I made friends here in Cape Town, and they have made me feel welcome and very appreciated.

Your high school principal, Mr Selaki Masenya, was a participant on Citizen Leader Lab’s school leadership programme. You have described Mr Masenya, ‘’as caring, accountable, responsible and intentional’’. How do you think having a school principal who is empowered and capacitated to lead, helped you achieve at school?

Mr Masenya always had a clear vision for Chipa-Tabane. He constantly set goals and had high expectations of both the learners and teachers. This really motivated us.

So yes, in my experience, empowered and capacitated school principals have the ability to create schools with effective teaching, and they provide support for learners to achieve.

The recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) revealed that 81% of South Africa’s Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. Employment levels in our country sit at 32%.  What concerns you about the state of our nation? 

Our country’s unemployment rate is currently sitting at 32.9%, however, our youth unemployment rate is standing at 46,5%. That’s almost half of our youth unemployed.

Another concern is the lack of leadership. I believe we do not have great leaders in our current government, and this is why we have still not found solutions to our power crisis. It is very saddening to see the leaders, whom we elected, doing nothing about the rising crime levels in our townships, our education system and our unemployment crisis. Our nation risks languishing in a state of disrepair.

As a young leader, how do you think our country should tackle the challenge of unemployment? 

Our country should restructure its education system to help to equip learners with essential skills for our labour market.

Globally, we are moving away from a job economy to a skill economy. In other words, skills will be more important than traditional degrees. I am not saying that traditional degrees are not important, but if degrees do not equip the youth to compete in the 21st-century labour market, then it is not helpful. We are also moving into a digital era, where skills like software engineering, data science and artificial intelligence are the future. As a tech enthusiast, I believe AI and machine learning are the future and we need to equip learners with skills, like coding, to allow them to compete in the digital economy.

What is your message for the youth of South Africa?

We are the future of this country, and if we allow this country to continue moving in its current direction, we will have nothing left. We cannot rely on our government to bring change. We know that our dreams and aspirations are worth pursuing. Let’s embrace the power of education, as it unlocks many opportunities for us. Let’s have faith in each other. Believe that South Africa’s story is still being written and that we are the authors.