From quiet Ngcobo to bustling Johannesburg, one of South Africa’s brightest matriculants hopes to inspire and give back to her community. 

For much of three years, at 03:00 when most people were fast asleep, Khanyisile Landingwe, a 17-year-old matriculant from Nyanga High School in the Eastern Cape, was wide awake, working to make her dreams a reality.

Studying before sunrise and before the packed school day ahead, was how she achieved seven distinctions, all of which scored 90% or above. Matric classes ran from 06:30 to 16:30 at her high school to ensure good grades for all matrics, after which she would study for an additional three-and-a-half hours. Landingwe threw herself into her studies, which left little time for hobbies, but she kept her Bible nearby, to page through in her downtime.

She attributes her disciple to her faith, which kept her away from temptations such as alcohol, drugs and even dating. “[B]eing a Christian kept me away from doing all those things, so all my focus was [on] my academics”, Landingwe said. Fittingly, Gospel music was the soundtrack to much of her time studying mathematics, the subject for which she achieved a final mark of 100%.

Landingwe had always dreamt of being a top achiever and reaching the department of basic education’s (DBE) national awards. “[S]he would literally start studying the syllabus of the next grade in December before the schools officially open, on holidays she would go to school [every day] just to go study while we were busy enjoying [ourselves] at our homes”, said Ovayo Makendlana, a friend of the matriculant.

After years of hard work, Landingwe achieved her goal on January 19, 2023. She was the 2022 DBE’s third highest scoring matric, averaging 95,14%, a feat which required focus, she told Wits Vuvuzela.

“I remember when I [would] get tired I used to close my eyes and think of it when I get there and sit in the same room as Angie Motshekga.” She enjoyed meeting Motshekga, the minister of the DBE, as she had “been dreaming about it for a very long time”. Making her parents proud was another motivator.

Her mother, Nathiswa Nqwiliso, called her “very focused” and said: “I was so super happy for her because I knew that she wanted it”.

Khanyisile Landingwe and her mother, Nathiswa Nqwiliso, at the Eastern Cape Top Achievers 2022 awards. Photo: Supplied

Landingwe was the first girl from her school to reach the national awards and hopes her achievement will inspire other girls to take the path she has paved.

One girl Landingwe is sure will follow in her footsteps is her younger sister. Landingwe is the second oldest of seven children, with whom she is very close. She jokingly shared that her favourite sibling is the baby of the family – her five-year-old brother – whom she doubts will follow in her footsteps as “he does not listen”.

Landingwe will begin a new journey in February 2023, being the first member of her family to study at Wits University in Johannesburg, which she thinks is “one of the best universities in SA”. The teenager from quiet and rural iSixholosini in the Eastern Cape looks forward to this new challenge – and not having to wear her green and white uniform again.

She will study towards a BSc in actuarial science and hopes to have her own business in five years’ time. “You cannot be rich the way I want to be rich if you’re working for people”, she joked, but “I want to use my money and invest in the future of the youth in my community.”

Landingwe is “a true definition of a hard worker” and “really deserves everything coming her way”, said Makendlana.

FEATURED IMAGE: The department of basic education’s third highest-scoring matriculant for 2022, Khanyisile Landingwe, achieved an average of 95,14% for her seven subjects. Photo: Supplied