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Lockdown stars: Resilience and rising above



Dr Emmanuel Taban was the guest speaker at the Jeppe Girls annual prize giving ceremony held on 19 March 2021. Named as one of the 100 most influential Africans of 2020, and recently celebrated by the medical fraternity for groundbreaking Covid treatment, Dr Taban’s ties with Jeppe go back to 1998 when he arrived at Jeppe Boys and was accepted to repeat his Matric. He received a Special Award from Mr Tait, the headmaster at the time, in recognition of his resilience. The citation included, “His ability to rise above personal tragedy, brutal persecution and almost impossible adversity .. is what makes it an honour for the school to be able to present to him this unusual award.”


Dr Taban and his wife Motheo recognized six Jeppe girls for never giving up during the lockdown in 2020 and showing extraordinary resilience despite the challenges they faced. Three of these "lockdown star" recipients are Ruthies, and we asked them for their reflections on their awards.


Athena Papoutsis has experienced more grief and death than most Grade 11’s at Jeppe. She reflects on having attended a funeral of a significant person in her life, every year since Grade 4. In Grade 9 it was the funeral of her mother, and in Grade 10, her father. Far from feeling sorry for herself, she is mature and focused – on what is important to her – family, kindness, living in the present – and not letting small things get her down. “My friend’s cat died – it was the first death she had experienced in her life. It was difficult for her. It made me realize how many struggles I have overcome, and that I can help others work with their grief.”


Evelyne Mabussi is pragmatic about her disadvantaged background. “I ask myself, ‘How did I find myself in this situation, and what can I do to ensure that I learn from this experience to make a better life for myself? What do I need to avoid in the future so as not to land up in these circumstances again?’”At the start of lockdown, without a cellular device or airtime, she also battled to keep up with her schoolwork – but she managed to make a plan to find a phone and money for small data purchases. “My faith sustains me, together with the knowledge that even if I go to sleep on an empty stomach, things are bound to change. I am not giving up.”


Margaret Peterson is in Grade 10 and lives with her parents and three younger brothers in a flat in Hillbrow. The start of lockdown was particularly difficult for her as buying data on a day-to-day basis was very expensive, sometimes necessitating forgoing lunch for the ability to log on to Google classroom. Charging her mother’s phone was also an issue, particularly when there was load shedding. She made a plan to take the phone to a nearby shop which had a generator and would plug it in to charge. Things eased up when the school started to provide data for those who needed it – and Margaret scrambled to catch up on the missed work and assignments, with the help of her teachers, friends and classmates. “It took me time to adapt to the new environment at Jeppe and the standard of education here. Lockdown made me learn to adapt to difficult circumstances quickly and to accept what’s thrown at me. I’ve learned to do my best and more than what’s expected – and I wear my Top 10 badge with pride.”


We acknowledge the resilience of all of our girls, and these three in particular – and thank them for sharing their stories with us.


From left to right above: Evelyne, Athena and Margaret holding a copy of Dr Taban's book.

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