Although 17-year-old Kimberley Lucas from Wentworth, KwaZulu-Natal, achieved four distinctions in Grade 12 last year, including 99% for maths, she had not applied to any university. That, she believed, was meant for rich people only. Coming from a socially and economically disadvantaged background, she – like many of her peers from Wentworth – had accepted that she had to find a casual job somewhere or sit at home. “All that we could do was to finish school and find a job," Kimberley says.
Life changed within minutes
Fortunately, this came to the attention of caring maths teacher Beverley Hargreaves from Umbilo Secondary. Exploring every possible avenue to get Kim to university, Hargreaves and friend Marlon Burgess ended up with Prof Singh from a tertiary institution in KwaZulu-Natal. Prof Singh referred them to Prof Jonathan Jansen, distinguished professor in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University (SU). “When I heard this young top achiever was from Wentworth, I immediately understood why she had not applied to university. Underserved communities have complex sociologies that must be taken into account," Prof Jansen says.
Realising that Kim undoubtedly qualified for tertiary studies, Prof Jansen made an enquiry at SU's financial support services. Within minutes, Kim was offered a full scholarship in Actuarial Science, with her accommodation and meals all paid. “Kim is, without question, a genius," says Prof Jansen. “That is why I am delighted that SU has changed her life with this opportunity."
Determined to succeed
Into her second week on the Stellenbosch campus, Kimberley is still a tad overwhelmed by the drastic change in her life but is slowly but surely adapting to her new life as a Matie student. “I like it here, and everyone is friendly. Everyone in Wentworth is proud of me," says the newcomer, adding that she is the first person in her family to study at a university.
She always steered clear of the social ills of drugs, gangs and violence in her area, she says, and, instead, focused on her schoolwork and studied hard to get top marks. “So, when I did not get funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, I was sad at first because I wanted to go to university. But then I accepted it, forgot about applying anywhere, and thought of finding a job. Any job would have been fine for me," says soft-spoken Kim.
She is extremely grateful to Prof Jansen and SU for giving her this opportunity, as well as to SU graduate Emily O'Ryan, who showed her around campus and helped her settle in at Nemesia residence upon her arrival in Stellenbosch.
Now that classes are in full swing, this number whizz says she finds her lectures interesting. She is motivated to work hard and complete her studies, and then practise as an actuary. “I will be a professional actuary one day, earn a good salary and buy a house," Kim says. “I don't know where I will stay ... maybe I will grow attached to the Cape. And I will help the other Wentworth people who want to study, but do not get an opportunity like me."
- During her first days on campus, Kim coincidently met Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, who informally welcomed her to SU and wished her every success in her studies.