Cathkin High matric pupil is a star achiever

Melanie Heldsinger helps her son, Edward, 18, a matric pupil at Cathkin High School, show off all the certificates he received at the valedictory ceremony.

A Cathkin High School matric pupil was the star of his valedictory ceremony when he was presented with nine certificates and announced as the school’s third-highest achiever despite living with autism.

Edward Heldsinger, 18, was diagnosed with the condition in Grade 8.

“He started Grade 1 when he was 6. He doesn’t speak much, and his teacher then told me he did not participate in class activities. I then decided to enrol him at another school and he repeated Grade 1. From there, we had no issues. It was only in Grade 8 that his teachers felt he needed help,” said his mother, Melanie Heldsinger.

“There is nothing wrong with Edward’s brain; he just writes slower,” she said. “I am so very proud of him. I cried so much when he was presented with all these awards.”

At the valedictory ceremony on Tuesday October 17, he received certificates for geography, history, maths literacy, life orientation and business studies, among others. He was also awarded the principal’s award, and he and his friend, Luxolo Mkhuhlane, were honoured for being the “world’s greatest friend and confidant”.

Edward said that on a normal school day, he studied between two to three hours on weekdays and about five hours a day on weekends.

“I want to thank all my teachers for all their support and my school for giving us extra lessons. I never expected to get all these certificates.”

To fellow high school pupils, he said, “You must study hard, but also adopt a positive attitude when it comes to studying. If you embrace studying, it doesn’t become something you dislike but rather an enjoyable experience. They must also believe in themselves.”

He said that for now he was focused on studying for his matric finals and would think about his career options after they were over.

Cathkin High principal Armand Anhuizen said Edward was a hard worker and deserved all the recognition he received.

“I have to acknowledge everybody who played a role in Edward excelling the way he does. Our school psychologist, Francis Hill; social worker Nombulelo Ngcangca; learning support adviser Charmaine Barnard; WCED metro central education district director Brenda Robertson; his class teacher, Gerald Herringer, and all his teachers he had since Grade 8.

“I taught him Afrikaans, and he was always a hard worker. If he didn’t understand anything he would ask. I believe God sent me here and prepared the staff and I to help Edward. My son also matriculated at Cathkin, and he had learning difficulties because of a brain operation he underwent to remove a tumour. It was with my son, Jason, who is now 26 years old, that my colleagues and I were taught to have patience.”