Her mother Puleng Shuping and the brilliant EMSS teachers helped her secure a clean sweep of straight A's. And although Esther begun her B. Pharmacy studies at Wits University earlier this month, she is still chasing her dream of becoming a doctor, and plans to swap to medicine in 2019.
Sharing a small informal structure with five other people in Orange Farm made studying difficult, and she had to wait for everyone to go to sleep at night to get some quiet time, but it was worth every minute following her excellent results, says Esther, 18, who attended Leshata Secondary School.
Esther beat out more than 70 fellow matrics at the end of last year to take the top spot in Gauteng in the EMSS programme, scoring 93% for science, 83% for maths and 86% for English.
Every Saturday during Grade 12 Esther attended the Engen classes, and her advice for the matrics of 2018 is to take advantage of every opportunity for extra learning.
“The secret to my success lay in hard work and putting in the extra hours, but also in asking for help and attending those classes. It’s vital to prioritise your time and to sacrifice for your studies if you want to do well,” she says.
It is youngsters like Esther that the EMSS programme aims to assist by offering extra classes in English, maths and science. The ultimate goal is not only to see the learners themselves achieve personal success, but also to tackle the bigger issue of helping address key national skills shortages in the engineering, medical and other technical fields.
A total of 555 matrics from across South Africa benefited from EMSS extra classes in 2017, achieving an impressive 94% pass rate. The Gauteng centre, one of nine in South Africa and which Esther attended, attained a 99% pass rate. The centre in Cape Town and two others in KwaZulu-Natal boasted 100% pass rates.
First and second place nationally in the 2017 EMSS class went to Makyle Naidoo and Nokwenama Gumede respectively, both of KwaZulu-Natal, followed in the top 10 rankings by two learners from the Western Cape, Uri Engelbrecht (3rd) and Zakiyyah Petersen (4th), who in turn were followed by Esther in fifth position.
Esther says she was lucky to have great teachers at her school, with their efforts boosted by the excellent EMSS staff, who she credits for taking her from a “sometimes A student” to achieving seven distinctions in her final exams.
“Those Engen classes prepared me so that by the time I was tackling the same work at school I was already familiar with it. That preparation was vital.
“For matrics generally, my advice is to practice and practice the previous papers. It helps a lot because you get insight into the questions and how to approach them. Group work is also very useful, because your peers all have different strengths and you can learn a lot from them,” she adds.
Since she was a small child, Esther has wanted to help people and has been fascinated with the inner workings of the human body.
“I have always wanted to be a doctor and with my mother behind me, as my number one motivator, I know I will realise my dream,” she says.
Adhila Hamdulay, Engen’s Corporate Social Investment Manager, says the company is delighted to see Esther get the chance to pursue her bid to become a doctor.
“We are so incredibly proud to see Esther, who epitomises the quality of the young people we work with around the country every year, do so well. Our ultimate reward is to help set them all up to pursue stimulating careers that will change their lives, but also benefit the economy as a whole,” says Hamdulay.
The EMSS schools across South Africa run classes in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. They provide a high-quality learning experience, including teaching and educational materials, for learners from Grade 10 to 12.
Hamdulay adds that it was extremely gratifying to hear such positive feedback from Esther.
“We strongly believe that we have a responsibility to help young people realise their full potential, and we feel enormously privileged to have played a role in her impressive achievements,” she says.