Sigcinile Thwala is the youngest of four children and will be the first person in her family to attend university.
“My mother is a domestic worker and my father is unemployed,” the matriculant from Unity Secondary School in Daveyton said on Wednesday.
She was one of several pupils the Gauteng education department honoured for their achievements. Thwala said she worked hard throughout the year and got seven distinctions.
“It was very stressful. I used to stay at school and study until 19:00. I share a room with my sister and her baby, so it was never quiet at home and I couldn’t study there,” she said.
Her situation at home pushed her to work even harder.
She hoped to better the life of her family once she received her chemical engineering degree, which she would complete at Wits University.