Zinzi Wulana


Zinzi Wulana is a top student in grade 12 at her school. Zinzi is living proof that success can only be achieved through hard work.

Zinzi, 18, originally from Khayelitsha, lives with her parents and younger brother (7). ‘My mom is a domestic worker and my dad works in a delivery company. We are a close family with a modest lifestyle.’

‘My mom has always been my motivation to succeed. She had to leave school at a young age and was unable to achieve her goals.’ Zinzi’s family value education and based on their belief that education standards in the “location” are lower; they invested the little money they earn to send Zinzi to a public school outside Khayelitsha.

‘Since my first year at Primary school I attended school outside my community. In my first years, I was collected and brought back by a minibus. But in Grade 5, I started taking the bus by myself because it was cheaper.’ Zinzi continue to study to high school, ‘each day I spend three hours in the bus. One hour and half each way but it is worth it. Sometimes at month end when my monthly clip card is finished, I struggle to get to school. On those occasions I would stay at home and study the subjects I was performing the poorest. I knew that after one or two days my family would find the money for my next clip card.’

Zinzi had always been a good student but in Grade 10 a teacher inspired her to become a cardiologist, ‘when my teacher told us about the first heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Chris Barnard, I knew I wanted to study medicine. I love science and I love to help people so this was the perfect combination; it was something I became truly passionate about.’

Zinzi knew that to further her dream in medicine she was going to need to work harder. ‘I knew I was not the brightest of all learners. I also knew that my performance was closely link to the work I put in. So, I developed a study strategy. I decided to revise my schoolwork every day from 18.00 to 20.00, I took a break and I started again from 21.00 to 24.00. During exams, my study schedule increased and I normally studied until 02.00 am.  I did sacrifice a lot, I tried to be in social media as little as I could, and during exam time I made sure that I didn’t watch TV or engaged in social media.’

Zinzi hard work paid off immediately and in grade 10, she was on the top three list in her Grade. Since then she has kept her place. ‘My dream to become a cardiologist keeps me motivated. My mum has always taught me to follow my dreams and to make a better life for myself. I knew from a young age that I was going to achieve mine no matter what.’

In Grade 11, Zinzi was selected to represent her school in a national competition – The Aqua Enduro Award from the Water Affairs Department. ‘The school selected six top learners to present the information we had gathered on the topic – Innovative ways to save water. Two learners were selected to represent my school and I was one of them. Together with other four learners from other schools in the Western Cape, we went to Limpopo for the National competition. The Western Cape got the third position and we just made it for the award of full bursaries for University.’

Aqua Enduro is an initiative to address the skill shortage in the scientific and engineering disciplines within the water sector. For this reason, bursaries are only awarded to water related careers. ‘I was happy for getting it but I was confused. I had dreamt to be a cardiologist all along and now I had just been awarded a bursary in a different field. After much thinking, I was  in need to accept that my family can not afford my university tuition, so this will a great opportunity for me.’

‘Sometimes I feel I could have decided to be bitter but I knew that if I did, I would have been unthankful for all the blessings that life has given me. I have parents that value my education and encourage me. I have a school that believes in me and pushes me harder. And out of the blue I was given a bursary for my University studies. I started doing some research and little by little I got excited. I have decided to study Biological Sciences next year. I have a new dream that continues to motivate me to be a top student.’

In closing Zinzi shared a key piece of advice, ‘your background or your circumstances do not define you. If you give your best, you will get the best.’

Zinzi is a former Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices

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