Ziphelele Nkunka, the 18-year-old daughter of a domestic worker, it is about more than personal success as she hopes her stellar results will inspire her peers to excel despite their circumstances.
Ziphelele was welcomed home as a hero at the weekend where the proud community celebrated her award at the provincial top achievers gala event in East London after years of hard work at her alma mater.
The aspiring chartered accountant intends to further her studies at the University of Johannesburg.
She is still in disbelief at her achievement.
“I liked to believe I was academically inclined and as I grew older I put in the effort and the results encouraged me to do more,” she said.
“I am still very excited and in disbelief. I had to punch myself on Saturday because I couldn’t believe my dream of attending the provincial awards had come true.”
The youngest of four siblings said the support she had received from family, friends and school had contributed immensely to her success.
“The community is so proud, because they played an integral role in my achievement,” she said.
“I had great support from my teachers who were always just a WhatsApp message away. There are still people here today [Sunday afternoon] who have come to congratulate me personally.”
The Veeplaas resident has for several years assisted younger pupils with tutoring and homework classes outside school hours.
Many passed this year thanks to her assistance.
“Teaching these pupils also benefited me, in constantly revising and practising the concepts involved in the subjects.”
Ziphelele managed to achieve seven distinctions in isiXhosa home language (90.7%), English (86.7%), business studies (98%), economics (94.3%), mathematical literacy (88%), accounting (85.7%) and life orientation (89%).