About 7 years ago, I came to this school with my mother for an interview with the principal, Mrs Padayachee. The interview was to establish if I was ready for school. The interview did not take place as I was on my mother’s back, fast asleep.
Mrs Padayachee thought that this was a sign of how I would be throughout my schooling career. Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Ashley Kunutu and I am the head girl of Melpark Primary School.
My teachers will all agree that I have been wide awake since that day and ready to take up any challenge and opportunity. I have taken part in athletics, netball, chess, poetry recitals and the speech evening every year. I have tried my best and managed to retain first position in my class for the last 6 years.
I am inspired by very strong women in my life, at school and at home. All my female teachers give me strength and motivate me to always do my best. My mom, who is a domestic worker, has done everything she can, and a little bit more to give me a happy and full life. Through me she lives out her own dreams of success. She is my role model and I can only hope that one day when I am a mother, I will be able to give my children the love and support that I have received as a child.
During my time as a head girl, I have looked at ways to make my mark and leave behind a legacy. My two deputies and I arranged a disco and a themed civvies day to raise funds for the school on a day that has a special meaning in all our lives: Women’s Day. Not only did I want to do something tangible for my school but my aim was to always be a role model for the other children at the school. I wanted them to see through me that if you work hard, and don’t give up, anything is possible.
I am always willing to try new things, like when my school acquired new high jump equipment. I thought to myself “Hey. I have long legs, I should try that!” It was a great experience and I achieved some success. I learnt from this, that you have to be ready to try new things. If you are stuck in your ways, how can you move forward? I always want to be a pioneer for the future, that is why I take every opportunity that comes my way.
On the last day of the term we hosted a Heritage Day concert. I found myself on stage, performing a variety of items ranging from choir, dancing, poetry and a totem. Being on stage for me is a vehicle to express my love for life, beauty and creation. I hope my participation was an inspiration to all the other children in the audience who shy away from the stage, to pluck up courage and to take a stand and show off their talent. Through our performances we managed to bring pride to our school as the reports received were full of praise for the quality of instruction at Melpark, and admiration of the talent of the children.
I plan to be a big influence not just in my community, or my city but in my country and even in the world. My journey started as a sleeping child, who awoke to achieve and continues next year. I have been given a great opportunity to become an influential leader by being accepted into a high school founded by a very inspirational woman.
Mrs Barker walked into the hall one day with a piece of paper. She gave it to Mrs Padayachee. My principal couldn’t even speak. She called me over with tears in her eyes. I knew as soon as I got close that this was the most important letter of my life… It was my acceptance letter into the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
The Academy will help me grow into a woman who can take life’s challenges head on. It will be the place that changes not only my life, but my family’s lives too. I hope to influence younger pupils in this school to work hard and to achieve, just as I have. A ripple is a circle and a circle has no end. Just like those ripples, opportunities in life are endless.
“He has shown the heights we can all scale in life if we put our shoulder to the wheel and work at things without flagging. You have done us proud!”
our former President, Thabo Mbeki said this about our amazing guest speaker at the 2013 Leadership Seminar.
Sibusiso Vilane is no stranger to the South African public. You see him daily on TV. With all his achievements, Sibusiso remains humble. In his words,
“I never dreamed I would be “the first” to do anything in my life but now, I cannot live without an expedition.”
Sibusiso was born in 1970, in Shongwe Mission in Mpumalanga. His parents moved to Swaziland a few years later, as his mother was native to the country. It was in Swaziland, that Sibusiso started his schooling, at the age of eleven. He only started school then because he helped support his family by doing jobs in the community.
His journey began when he worked as a cattle herder at the age of seven. Sibusiso began his working career as a game ranger at Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland in 1993. From cattle herder to game ranger, Sibusiso had a great desire to strive for more and to have a better life.
He then developed two very important relationships. In 1995 he wed Nomsa, to whom he has been married for 18 years and together they have four children. And then in 1996, he met John Doble, the man who was to become his first mentor in the art of climbing, greatest friend, and the benefactor of many of his expeditions.
Sibusiso started climbing peaks in the Drakensburg in 1996. In 1999 he summitted Mount Kilimanjaro and went on to the Himalayas in 2002. In March 2003, Sibusiso set off for the Himalayas again, in his quest to be the first black African to summit earth’s highest mountain, Everest. He summitted Everest successfully on 26 May 2003 from the South Side. His climbing achievements followed on from there; in 2008 he completed the “Seven Summits” climb. This meant that he had climbed the seven highest mountains in the world. This is an incredible accomplishment, and to add to this he was the first black African to achieve this.
In 2005 Sibusiso reached the summit of Everest again after accessing the peak from the North Ridge – the more difficult side. This achievement meant that he is the first black African to climb the world’s highest peak twice and by two different routes.
In late 2007 Sibusiso and fellow mountaineer, Alex Harris, embarked on a trek to reach the South Pole. When they completed the expedition on 17 January 2008 it made Sibusiso and Harris the first South Africans to walk to the South Pole, and Sibusiso the first black person to do so. Sibusiso arrived at the geographic North Pole on 12 April 2012; this was the final hurdle to becoming the first black person to complete the Three Poles Challenge.
He has also published a book titled “To the Top from Nowhere”, which gives a first-hand account of his adventures.