Cala whizz, Iva Aphelele Ncubukezi aces matric 

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Engen Maths and Science School learner, Iva Aphelele Ncubukezi has wrestled a life of extreme hardship to ace matric and set himself up to study medicine in 2022. 

Iva, who grew up the youngest of four orphaned siblings amidst grinding poverty in the Eastern Cape hamlet of Cala, achieved seven distinctions in matric (including 99% for science), and plans to study to be a medical doctor at Walter Sisulu University in 2022. 

“I’m the youngest of four children and my older siblings have been responsible for my upbringing and education,” says Iva. 

“We have all struggled financially as my siblings are unemployed, so it has been incredibly difficult for us all.” 

He remains eternally grateful for his sibling’s support, who continue to inspire him, despite their own difficulties.  

“I want to work hard to uplift and improve the lives of my family.”  

After successive years surviving the Covid-19 pandemic, Iva overcame the added challenge of learning without any stationary, digital gadgets or online access. 

He also suffered from high anxiety and could not attend some of the supplementary lessons provided by the Engen Maths and Science School.  

“This anti-social behaviour was new to me, and I was close to a mental breakdown, but I pulled through thanks to the support of his siblings.”   

Iva lives by the proverb, ‘you reap what you sow.’  

“It might have been said too many times and may even be a cliché, but it has been effective in my life. 

His advice for the class of 2022 is to prioritise and sacrifice a lot of time towards schoolwork. 

“Attending lessons and listening to your teachers is a must to and you need to be disciplined enough to resist the temptation of watching your favourite television shows.”  

Iva says attending the Engen Maths and Science School from grade 10-12 every Saturday at Cala Senior Secondary School was his salvation, especially if there was a topic that he did not wholly comprehend. 

“The teachers are very knowledgeable and extremely helpful and they taught me how to answer complicated questions that were worth more marks than others.  

“The programme also offers meals for learners in need which was a big help for me.   

“I also enjoyed meeting other learners from different schools which was advantageous as this enabled us to share information,” he adds. 

The Engen Maths and Science Schools have run for over 30 years, and offer underprivileged grade 10-12 learners free supplementary Maths, Science and English tuition on Saturdays at nine locations across South Africa. 

These include Cape Town (classes are held at Belgravia and Manzombotho High), Port Elizabeth, East London, Cala and Johannesburg, and in KwaZulu-Natal where classes are hosted at Fairvale High School, Ganges High School, Howard College, and Mangosuthu University of Technology. 

The 429-strong Engen Maths and Science School matric class of 2021 attained a 77% overall pass rate of which 64% attained bachelor passes. 

Engen’s manager of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Dr James Nyawera explains that the EMSS programme focuses specifically on providing extra tuition in “gateway” subjects such as mathematics and science; subjects which are considered critical in addressing the country’s technical and engineering skills shortage as well as spurring economic growth and development.  

“The EMSS programme seeks to harness the potential of talented young people in difficult circumstances and to also contribute to the pool of scarce skills in the country,” comments Nyawera. 

“Starting off 34 years ago as Engen Saturday Schools, EMSS remains central to Engen’s efforts to contribute to the growth and transformation of South Africa,” continues Nyawera, adding that “the programme has worked tirelessly to help transform young underprivileged people’s lives, with a focus of creating a diverse and vibrant workforce.” 

Nyawera says Engen is incredibly proud of Iva and all the EMSS learners who completed matric in 2021, despite extremely trying circumstances. 

“Well done to all for showing true grit and determination! It is Engen’s ultimate reward to help set talented people up to pursue stimulating careers that won’t only benefit them personally, but also their families and the broader economy of South Africa. 

“Engen is committed to building tomorrow’s leaders and if we want to ensure that the youth of tomorrow are prepared for a rapidly changing world, we need to ensure that they have the right mix of skills, for them to reach their full potential,” concludes Nyawera. 

Engen congratulates the Engen Maths and Science School class of 2021 and offers a well-deserved round of applause to all the learners and teachers. #Engencares