A Sherwood Park matriculant’s hard work paid off when he not only scored six distinctions but also landed a bursary to study law.
Yonnic Watlington Carelse, the son of a teacher and salesman, said he wanted to do everything in his power to lessen the financial burden on his parents for his tertiary education. So, he knuckled down and threw himself into his studies, and with the help of South Peninsula High School’s deputy principal, Zeid Baker, and his father, Neil Carelse, he applied for 12 bursaries
This week, Yonnic moved into a UCT residence after getting a bursary from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. He will be studying towards his BA Law degree.
“I realised when I applied for the bursaries that it seems like my family is more privileged, but I know my parents worked very hard to get me through high school. The financial expenses were exorbitant. I knew having to pay for my tertiary education would be such a burden on my parents.
“The registration fee alone is R21 000. I also know many people considered to be middle class cannot afford the huge costs associated with tertiary study. Education is a right, not a privilege. And it is for this reason that I support efforts for free education. I’m hoping gradually something will happen – hopefully in my lifetime.
“As a country, we do have the resources. If other countries can at least offer free basic education, what is stopping us? I read a study which stated that South Africa is able to offer free education – it’s just that the money is not being used properly. I hope by the time I have children education will be free, or at least the fees will be lower,” Yonnic said.
His mother, Bridgette Carelse, described her youngest son as a “miracle from God who is a blessing”.
Yonnic was born two years after she was diagnosed with beast cancer and three years before Mr Carelse had a second kidney transplant.
“It was tough on us financially. In the same year Yonnic started high school, I had surgery again, and his father had lost his job. For most of the time, I had to be the breadwinner. As a parent, I would rather eat less food and pay the school fees monthly. I know that when things get really tough, people will rather give you a plate of food, than give you money, and that’s why I had to have my priorities straight.
“Yonnic deserves this so much. When I heard he was awarded a bursary, I could not contain my joy. I thank God every day for his grace. God is so faithful.
“We could not afford to put him in the high school of his choice, and for the first few months of high school, he was very unhappy. He has always shown academic excellence. He was offered a 30 percent scholarship at a prestigious school, but we still could not afford the balance then of more than R40 000 for his first year of high school. He could not understand this.
“Yonnic thought he had everything to offer and asked why he wasn’t good enough.
“However, I managed to get him some help with a therapist, and from there, he started soaring again.
“I told him that he is God’s miracle, and that he will be a blessing wherever he goes. I believe that God allowed all of this to happen, to get Yonnic to where he is at now,” Ms Carelse said.
The bursary will cover Yonnic’s tuition fees, his residence, and he will also receive an allowance for books and personal expenses.
In January, he attended a life-skills camp arranged by the funders, where he met other bursary recipients from across South Africa.
“There were also second-year students, who gave us some insight – like how to handle the transition from high school to university – on an emotional, physical and financial level. It was nice to engage with other young people from across South Africa, and I saw it as a little bit of practice at being away from home.
“It was a great experience that prepared me for the road ahead. I am quite excited for the start of my new life and new challenges,” Yonnic said.