Janine Mabuza was just 12 when she had to drop out of school to look after her parents and take care of the household. When they died from cancer, she vowed to return to school and do her best.

Despite these hurdles, the Hoërskool Bredasdorp matric pupil achieved a bachelor’s pass with three Bs and three Cs.

So impressed was Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer with her “exceptional courage and determination” that she presented Mabuza with a special award at a ceremony in Cape Town on Tuesday.


The 20-year-old said her mother would have been proud of her, and her father “super proud”.

“He taught us from a young age that life happens to you. You have to work through it and do your best,” she said with tears in her eyes and a hand on her chest.

Mabuza had to grow up quickly. For two years, she cleaned the house, made food and carried water.

“Helping my parents was something I wanted to do, but obviously as a child you want to play and hang out with your friends,” she said. “I think helping my parents was what I could give them for everything they had done for me.”

Her father died from brain cancer in 2008 and her mother died soon after they moved to Napier, a small town near Bredasdorp.

Schafer said the young woman’s perseverance bore fruit when she became head girl of Protea Primary School in Napier. She was later chosen for the council of leaders at her high school.

Mabuza planned to study a year of social work at the University of Cape Town and then law at Wits University.

“I want to help other kids. Not all of us have the opportunity to have family to live with,” she said.

One of her goals is to start a non-government organisation to help underprivileged children, especially girls, to achieve their dreams.

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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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