Eighteen-year-old Anushqah van der Ventel loves reading, a passion she believes began before she was born, when her pregnant mother would read aloud to her. Today her admiration for words and storytelling has led her to become a success story in her
community of Manenburg in the ‘Cape Flats’.
A big moment in Anushqah’s life was when she entered the South African Development Community Secondary Schools Essay
Competition. In its 16th year, the competition brings to the fore the undoubted talents of some of the country’s most gifted young writers. “We had to write a 2000-word essay on the adverse effects of Climate Change and how they affect socio-economic development in the region. We also had to discuss what the education sector should do to mitigate the impact. My essay was titled: The truth is upon us: signs are clear.”
“My English teacher told me about the competition just before the March holidays so I decided to use my holidays to research and write the essay.”
“Even when I went out with my friends, I would think about new ways that I could construct a sentence. It really excited me. I would go to the library and research the topic. There were times when I wasn’t close to a pen and paper and I would make notes on my phone to make sure that I remembered my thoughts.” Anushqah’s dedication paid off when her essay ranked third nationally and represented the only winner from the Western Cape.
“When my teacher told me about the success of the essay I was so excited. I never wrote to win but rather for the experience. That said, I felt honored and proud of myself.” Anushqah says that winning the competition also proved to her that her love for writing and reading can pave a future for her and that through Salesian Life Choices she was able to take the necessary steps to achieve her goals.
“I feel like Salesian Life Choices has really given me the tools and vision to look at my world differently. Growing up in Manenburg, I’ve seen the same people in my area sit on crates outside their home and follow the sun. I see people not living but just surviving.” Anushqah says that she feels a big part of her thinking was awakened by being exposed to life outside her community through the organisation.
“Thanks to Salesian Life Choices I’ve been on radio and television and I really enjoyed it. It opened my world to different media and inspired me to be part of it.”
“Our schools are often overcrowded and we do not get the necessary attention we need – this is not the fault of the educators – but with the tutoring we received at Salesian Life Choices it reinforced the work that we learned at school and assisted me to improve academically. Placing me in a good position when I applied to University. They trained me to write the National Benchmark Test for example and this really made me feel confident when I was writing. They also assisted me during the university application process.”
She adds by saying that the leadership training has also motivated her to inspire youth in her community. “I want other young people to know that there are many opportunities available to them and that with some hard work anything is possible.” Today Anushqah is preparing to write her final Grade 12 exams. She feels motivated as she has received provisional acceptance to study Journalism at the prestigious Rhodes University.