LUXOLO COPISO grew up in a low-income home in Khayamandi township outside Stellenbosch, South Africa, without any comprehension of the doors that tertiary education might open. He’s now at Africa’s top university, the University of Cape Town. He told SHIRLEY FAIRALL what got him there…
No-one in his family ever passed their final school exams but thanks to a series of supportive people and his own very hard work, Luxolo Copiso (18) has won a place at Africa’s top university. ‘It’s up to people like me to show township children that they can improve their situation,’ he says. ‘We need to motivate and encourage each other.’ | Photo: Grace Photography/Leentjie du Preez
‘I USED TO GO TO school just for something to do. I never thought about life beyond school. I didn’t have dreams because I didn’t think I could achieve anything in particular. No one in my family had been to university or even passed their final grade 12 exams.
My friend Jannick told me to surround myself with people who would be good for my life. Then in Grade 11 my best friend Sinesipho said she was planning on going to university. That was a big wow moment for me ⎯ she started lighting up my mind. I put Jannick and Sinesipho’s encouragement together and that’s when the University of Cape Town (UCT) became my goal.
Going places. ‘I was so, so, so excited the day I heard I had been accepted here,’ says Luxolo. ‘Education is power.’ | Photo: Grace Photography/Leentjie du Preez
I then went through a period of introspection, thinking about who I was and what I wanted from life. I remembered I’d always wanted to be a doctor. People had laughed at me but I now began to think it didn’t matter what kind of doctor I became, I would be a doctor! People generally like to talk to me and I like to encourage them to understand how they feel and to solve their problems, so I decided I would start with becoming a psychologist.
Making that decision was one thing, but I had no idea how I’d achieve university entrance in the two years I had left of school. This is when the Preeva Foundation showed up at my school and changed my life.
Preeva was started by two South African university students. They came to my school and tutored us in maths, then tested us. I got the best results and they took me on as a student. My personal maths tutor was Nicole. I discussed everything with her and she was very giving and encouraging. If I needed help in any other subject I’d just ask her and she would connect me to the right tutor. Once I realised what I could do with my brain, I improved in all my subjects.
Student Nicole Carter, the Preeva Foundation tutor who taught Luxolo maths: ‘She was very giving and encouraging,’ he says | Photo: Preeva Foundation
Sometimes at school I would be the only student attending the tutoring sessions – I really wanted to achieve my dream and I was prepared to work for it. My maths had been around 60% but in my grade 12 finals Preeva helped me to achieve a near distinction. The Preeva tutors helped me keep my dreams alive!
Preeva also organised glasses for me. Even when I sat at the front of the class I was too short-sighted to see the blackboard properly. They took me to the optometrist and suddenly I could sit anywhere and see everything. It became much easier to study and enjoy school. But the biggest thing Preeva changed for me was that they made me realise that education is power.
Luxolo with two of the most influential women in his life: all decked out for his school farewell with best friend Sinesipho Lentoni who first told him about the possibility of university, and a warm greeting for his tutor Nicole Carter
In places like Khayamandi, kids don’t see the benefit of going to school because so few of them go to university. I think it’s up to people like me to make education fashionable, to show them that they can make their families proud and improve their situations. I wouldn’t have got into university either if not for Jannick and Sinesipho awakening my dream and Preeva helping me achieve it. We need to help, encourage and motivate one another.
I always considered myself a child of God, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I took a formal step to welcome the power of Jesus into my life. My faith helped me so much as my dream developed. Wow, I prayed a lot! I would go up the Coetzenburg Trail on Stellenbosch Mountain and cry out to God, and now look at how my prayers are being answered!
I remember the day I heard that I had been accepted by UCT. That was the day I knew my dream of being a psychologist was going to come true. I was so, so, so excited and my family was so proud. I’m still excited! I initially had a student loan but it was then converted to a government bursary. I have to keep doing well for the bursary to continue. It can be a bit nerve wracking but I’m confident that I’ll be okay!
Six months in, Luxolo still feels the thrill of being on a university campus | Photo: Grace Photography/Leentjie du Preez
Because I hadn’t done pure maths at school, only maths literacy, UCT has given me an extension which means that I’m doing stats instead of psychology for this first year so that I have the right qualifications for psychology next year.
Moving from Stellenbosch to Cape Town has been really cool. I decided not to do any sports or join any societies this year because I have to work hard, but I’ve met so many wonderful people. I have a good roommate at res and I’ve made new friends. We encourage each other and try to live happy lives. I love this city and I love everything I’m experiencing here!
My academic plan is to do an honours degree in neuro-psychology. I’m increasingly interested in brain disorders and injuries.
Truly, I never knew life could be like this!’