One of the highlights of the third Ruth First Jeppe Fiesta concert on Friday 30 August was the interval performance outside the main doors of the Linder Auditorium of the Hlabelela choir. Led by Natasha Mwilambwe, they enchanted the audience with their signature harmonies and sense of connection with one another and the crowd, through their renditions of Pulengwe, Andinanto and a Sotho Traditional Hymn.
Five days later, Natasha was stranded at the bus stop as the xenophobic violence swirled around her community. She was due to write her Matric Prelim Life Sciences exam at 08h30 and could not get to school. She advised the school of her problem and twenty minutes later, she was picked up from the bus stop by a member of staff and brought to school to write her exam with the appropriate time concessions for being late. Not the ideal circumstances under which to optimise exam performance but a real example of the school’s safe haven status and “Jeppe Cares!”
Natasha did not originally want to come to Jeppe Girls, nor apply for the Ruth First scholarship. She wanted to follow her friends from IH Harris to another high school, but “this was not my destiny”. With her mother and Maths teacher’s encouragement, she made it through the selection process and started in Grade 8E in 2015. That class, now 12D has been her favourite team at Jeppe: a unit with which she has grown and changed, from which she has learned to understand other people’s struggles and challenges, and the many ways in which we can relate to one another, despite our different circumstances. From galas to cake and candies, Matric Dance to choir, the continuous stream of events which makes up the days at Jeppe Girls has taught her how to multi-task, take responsibility and set aside the required time to study.
Natasha has been on many teams at Jeppe: the choir, Hlabelela, drama productions including “Born Free” and “Please!”, the First Athletics team and Cross-Country teams, and as a school councillor. She has thrived on the dedication and commitment which being an involved team member entails, demanding regular attendance at practices and punctuality, as well as the sense of sisterhood which comes from this involvement.
As a Ruthie, she appreciates the reprieve the scholarship offered her parents from a financial perspective. She loves being part of the Ruthie family and the connection which she has with Ruthies across all of the grades. Her mentors, both of whom are Jeppe Old girls, have been ideally placed to assist and advise as she has progressed through the school, and she has embraced her role of helping and mentoring the younger girls on the progamme.
Natasha’s dream is to study Architecture at Wits. She has been for an interview and is waiting to hear about the outcome. She also has applications in at the Universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and is excited about what the future holds. She is also mindful of the safe haven which Jeppe Girls is – the beautiful spring gardens and nurturing environment are a reminder of all that she has treasured here. We wish her all the best for her future.
Natasha is pictured above leading the Hlablalela choir outside the Linder Auditorium