Musa makes his mark

Musa Ndlovu grew up in Limpopo, a province more often in the headlines for protests than feel good stories. But occasionally someone comes along who beats the odds. Ndlovu has risen above his personal circumstances to make his hometown and family proud.
He has always scored high marks for mathematics. Only one in twenty children who start school score over 50% for maths. The reasons range from a legacy of sub-standard education system to poor subject choices, and the fact that only 50% of those who start school even write matric.
Ndlovu’s story is a tribute to how far determination can carry a person. It also illustrates the life-changing consequences of extending a helping hand when help is needed most. A gifted mathematician, Ndlovu hasn’t had it easy. A disability in his fingers makes it difficult to write, but this hasn’t deterred him from developing his full potential.
“Life gets real at high school,” says Ndlovu. “I couldn’t play sport, because of my disability, so I concentrated on my school work instead.” He writes slower than usual. In matric his teachers wouldn’t give him extra time to complete his exam paper – but he still achieved a credible 78% for mathematics.
Ndlovu was proving the usefulness of his mathematics ability as a thriving entrepreneur. His most successful venture was selling pre-paid electricity, airtime and cold drinks, enabling him to pay the deposit for his first year university fees with his earnings.
While some people with disabilities begin to believe they aren’t as worthy as their able bodied counterparts, Ndlovu is disproving this. Many learners have the same self-limiting beliefs about mathematics. It is seen as a subject to be feared. “This attitude is their disability. I was lucky. I was always good at maths,” Ndlovu says.
His perceptive parents encouraged his logical learning. Realising their son would benefit from the best schooling possible, in grade 9 they moved him to Khanyisa Education School, in Giyani, Limpopo.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me to get a private school education,” says Ndlovu. In grade 11 Ndlovu registered for the Maths Olympiad training and submitted weekly assignments online. His hard work paid off – he entered and reached the second round of the Maths Olympiad and was awarded Best African Learner in the Maths Olympiad in 2011, his matric year.
“The value of participating in any Olympiad is to promote that subject,” says Ellie Olivier, Operations Manager at the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF), “getting the message across to learners that mathematics is important and that it can open doors for you. The mathematics competitions are primarily to identify talent. The next step is developing talent.” Fortunately for Ndlovu, Olivier recognised his talent.
Ndlovu counts himself as lucky. “I have gained supporters as I have progressed in life.”
He extendes an invitation to schools that he is available for talks to inspire learners that they can become anything they want to become. All it takes is determination, hard work, besides encou-ragement and support from other. The rest is up to them!

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