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Guard your mental health, says matric pupil after challenging year

27 October 2021 - 07:00
Class of 2021 Gauteng pupil Ofentse Phukubye.
Class of 2021 Gauteng pupil Ofentse Phukubye.
Image: Supplied

Guard your mental health, look after yourself and speak to someone when things get tough.

This was the message a Gauteng matric pupil had for his fellow classmates ahead of their final exams.

The Gauteng education department announced on Sunday that the province had enrolled 175,599 candidates to write this year’s matric exams — an increase of 17.55% on last year’s 149,385.

The exams will start on Wednesday and run until December 6 for public schools.

The class of 2021 will be the eighth group to write the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (Caps).

Ofentse Phukubye was raised by a single parent and spent most of his life moving between Limpopo and Gauteng.

“I had some ups and downs growing up as my mother was still studying then. She would send me to live with her aunt in the rural areas of Limpopo. The constant moving around led to slight confusion as I never got the solid opportunity to make childhood friends,” Phukubye said.

While living in Limpopo, Phukubye also experienced a tragic incident which changed his childhood forever. He was burnt with boiling water on his left arm, leaving him with a permanent scar.

“I was a kid who was always intrigued by objects around me and that led me being curious to open these objects,” he said.

It took him a long time to adapt to the injury, he said, because of the “unbearable pain”.

Ofentse Phukubye's left arm was burnt with boiling water when he was a child.
Ofentse Phukubye's left arm was burnt with boiling water when he was a child.
Image: Supplied

“This also led to high insecurity where I only wore long-sleeved clothing to avoid being teased but it happened either way in primary school. I felt like an outcast as people treated me as if I were a monster. Some people could not bear to sit next to me as they thought it was contagious.

“I spent most of my primary school days being bullied and alone,” he said.

Despite the emotional toll, it did not stop him from accomplishing his goals. He has one last hurdle left: to complete his matric year to the best of his ability.

The 20-year-old described his matric year as extremely challenging during a worldwide pandemic and problems at home.

“I was never ready for this year. At the beginning, it was all good as the pressure wasn’t much academically. I was having a bad year because of problems at home, and this led to the year becoming too much.

Find someone you trust who you can speak to about your problems as you are not alone and someone will always be willing to help you. Just ask.
Ofentse Phukubye

“I became distant from reality as I was struggling to cope with the stress and problems. This also triggered memories of the pain I went through as a primary school pupil.”

He confided in a teacher who he described as the “greatest” and as a “role model”.

“She allowed me to vent at a time when my problems were peaking and I was deteriorating mentally and physically. I am grateful she was able to take the time to listen to me and advise me.

“It’s not every day we find people like her and we should take the time to appreciate all the people in our country who took valuable time to help those going through a difficult time this year.”

With the 2021 matric exams kicking off on Wednesday, Phukubye urged his fellow classmates to guard their mental health.

“Find someone you trust who you can speak to about your problems as you are not alone and someone will always be willing to help you. Just ask.”

Phukubye wants to pursue a career in entrepreneurship and content creation.

TimesLIVE


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