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Top of the class

Top of the class
BOY GENIUS: Ngeepetjike Ngaruka

“My ultimate aim is to study Medicine and become a medical doctor”

Ngeepetjike Ngaruka’s portrait picture is the first in a list of 2020 junior secondary school examinations top achievers in the country.

He is in fact the number one in Botswana after getting an A in all nine subjects to bag the Merit he was so desperate to achieve.

The 17-year-old has not only made his parents, Zan Ngaruka, a lecturer at Maun Technical College and, Kabanene Ngaruka proud but his former school, Tsodilo Secondary School as well.

Indeed, the whole of the northwest District is beaming with pride at the hard-working teenager’s exploits.

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The young man has made history in Ngamiland, whose schools rarely make an appearance in the national top ten rankings.

In this interview with FRANCINAH BAAITSE, Ngaruka talks about his determination and dreams.

Congratulations. You have done exceptionally well in your examinations. How does it feel?

Thank you.

I am very, very happy.

I wanted to get the top marks so I worked very hard for it.

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I am very proud of my results because I was not so much expecting Merit.

The rest of your classmates struggled to reach such heights, with your school recording a 28 percent pass rate in last year’s examinations. How did you do it differently from the rest?

I made sure I did not engage in activities that would distract my attention from my studies.

I literally became a bookworm!

I utilised study hours at school for revision and even at home, I avoided spending too much time watching television.

I revised and studied past examination papers and whenever I failed a subject or did not understand it, I asked for help from my teachers.

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A simple but effective practice! So what are these ‘activities’ you speak of that can lead to failure and distractive behavior in learners?

Peer pressure; always running behind friends who don’t have the same vision as you can be very derailing.

There are students who do not care about their studies at all.

Even at Junior Secondary School, students engage in destructive behavior such as having sex, taking drugs, smoking, and drinking alcohol.

I have never wanted to be part of such groups.

You really are a focused young man. I am told that mobile phones are some of the sources of destructive behavior among young people. Do you have one?

No, I do not have one and I never had one, therefore, I cannot confidently respond to that.

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But I believe just like television, electronics such as these have to be used responsibly.

At this point in time, I don’t feel a need to own a set, I am only focused on my dreams.

And what are those dreams?

Getting a Merit was one of them and I have achieved it, so it’s a tick on that.

My second dream is to get a scholarship to complete my studies at an English Medium School and Maruapula Secondary School in Gaborone has already put an offer on the table and I am very close to achieving that as well.

My other dream is to pass my Senior Secondary School with another Merit because my ultimate aim is to study Medicine and become a medical doctor.

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Why Medicine?

It is a suitable career.

I am not a talkative person; I am a hands-on person.

I do not just talk, but rather make things happen.

The Northwest District is classed as a failure belt. For 2020 the region achieved a 25.5 percent pass rate, meaning almost three-in-four students failed. Where do you think the problem lies, is it, poor-performing teachers or lazy students?

In life, there are always excuses for almost all poor results but what needs to be understood is that there is always a solution to every problem.

This talk about poor-performing teachers is just talking.

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I, for example, did not have to pay for extra lessons or tutors to get better marks.

I worked hard for it, I worked on my weakness, when I failed a subject I would make corrections and make sure I understood it better.

Have you always been an A-Grade student?

I got straight As at Standard Seven (Primary School Leaving Examinations).

This was because our class was very competitive and I never wanted to be outdone by others.

At lower primary, I did not understand anything about education until at Standard Five.

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Then I was a new student at Kubung Primary School and I found that my classmates were competitive and I took on the challenge.

That is when I started understanding the purpose of going to school and the importance of good marks.

Have you ever failed a test paper?

Oh yes. I remember very well!

It was an English paper three.

Oh boy, I got ten out of 45.

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However, I did better in other papers so at the end of it I got an overall pass of B.

But I was not happy so I concentrated on that weakness and asked for assistance from my English teacher and I never failed English again.

What advice can you give to struggling students and other learners out there who wish to improve their academic performance?

It is all in the mindset.

Tell yourself that you want it and you can do better.

Set yourselves a target and know that not everything in life comes easy.

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Focus, ask for help, and study as though you are sitting for final examinations the following week.

Reduce the number of friends and do not do what you don’t want to do only because your friends want you to do it or expect you to do it.

Set your own principles and listen to your parents and teachers because they have your best interest at heart.

Let’s move away from books and class. I have been informed that you are from Habu village, is that true?

Sort of, but not really.

I am from a small settlement near Habu called Ndwee.

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That is where I was born.

But I started my standard one at Boseja Primary School in Maun and was transferred to Segomotso Primary School in Selebi-Phikwe where I did my Standard Three, Four, and part of standard Five.

My father was transferred back to Maun, so I continued my Standard Five up to Standard Seven at Kubung Primary School in Maun.

You took me back to class again. But it is okay. Now tell me about your hobbies. Besides reading, do you have any other activities you do for fun?

Yes, I like playing games on the phone.

I thought you said you do not have a mobile phone?

Yes, I don’t have one, but I borrow from those who have set it at home.

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Interesting. Earlier on you said you are not much into friends stuff and that you are a quiet person. Does it mean you do not have a girlfriend?

(Giggles shyly) No.

I have a dream and I do not want that to be derailed by a girlfriend.

My focus is on education.

My colleagues do those things, but that has not helped improve their academic results.

So for now, I am not interested in girls.

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That’s a very good attitude towards life. We wish you all the best in achieving your dreams. Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are you up to this weekend?

I will just be home, most likely doing nothing.

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