Orlando High School pupils in Soweto entered the new school year with words of encouragement from Safety and Security Deputy Minister Susan Shabangu.
Shabangu visited six schools on Friday and urged pupils to emulate former pupils from these schools who had made names for themselves.
"You should emulate great people like President Kgalema Motlante, Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung," she told pupils at Orlando High.
Other schools she visited were Bona, Zifuneleni, Job Rathebe, Selelekele and Lufefe.
Shabangu, who was born in Orlando East, told pupils they should not use their poor backgrounds as an excuse for not achieving better things in life.
"You must work hard and stay away from drugs," she said.
Shabangu warned them about drug peddlers who used pupils to sell drugs at schools. "If you do crime we will arrest you."
Shabangu was accompanied by Gauteng agriculture, conservation and environmental affairs MEC Khabisi Mosunkutu; Orlando East police station commissioner, Director Ngoako Mashao; poet Mzwakhe Mbuli; Isidingo actor Darlington Michaels and a few Orlando Pirates soccer players.
Siphelele Ntombela, a Grade 8 pupil at Job Rathebe, said: "She motivated us and told us to concentrate on our studies."