Lance bounces back from 90% burns to matric triumph
Lance Minnies survived a house fire that shocked the nation and left eight members of one family dead, including three children.
It was June 12 2016 when South Africa woke to the news that a Mitchells Plain home had been engulfed by fire.
Minnies, who sustained burns to more than 90% of his body during a sleepover at the house, spent five months in hospital.
The 18-year-old completed a remarkable recovery on Thursday when he received one of three special ministerial awards from Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer at the provincial matric awards.
The AZ Berman High School pupil, one of seven siblings, said several bouts of depression almost prevented him writing matric. But he persevered and became the first member of his family to reach the milestone.
Minnies, who lost four toes in the fire, limped as he climbed the stairs to receive his award at Leeuwenhof, the Western Cape premier's official home.
Later, he told SowetanLIVE how he struggled to stay motivated during his matric year.
"At the beginning of last year I really battled with my studies. I lost all concentration," he said.
"All I thought about was the fire tragedy and my family's struggles. I lost hope and took all my text books back to school because I lost all interest. One of my teachers came home to encourage me not to give up."
During the final exams Minnies again hit a low point and almost missed writing one of the papers. "My teachers didn’t give up on me and they kept on pushing and telling me that I could do it, until my last exam," he said.
The Western Cape matric pass rate of 81.5% was down from 84.4% in 2017 but Schäfer said it had increased its bachelor pass rate, as well as its maths and physics performances.
Justine Crook-Mansour of Rustenburg Girls' High was the top student in the province and the country, followed by Derek Reissenzahn from Bishops Diocesan College, Timothy Schlesinger from Rondebosch Boys' High and Charlotte Louw from Herschel Girls' School.
The fifth top pupil in the province and the country's top candidate from a quintile 2 school was Kamva Goso from Intsebenziswano Secondary School in Philippi.
Goso, who has two siblings, and has been raised by a single mother in a rented two-roomed RDP home, attributed his success to hard work. He got distinctions in all seven of his subjects.
Even though he expected to pass matric, he said he did not expect to do so well.
After leaving the rural Eastern Cape in 2012, he set his eyes on excellence. When he realised his goals could be thwarted by attending a school in Hanover Park, a stronghold of Cape Flats gangs, he had a change of plan.
"I decided to go to a school in my area and I registered at Intsebenziswano High. I couldn't stand all the provoking from the gangs and their attempts to recruit us so I decided to leave the school that my mom chose for me. I started to focus better and I worked very hard," he said.
Goso is now setting his sights on the University of Cape Town, where he has been accepted to study actuarial science.