Walter Nyamukondiwa Mash West Bureau
“I am racing against my age, there is so much I want to do and if I do it slowly, I might die or grow too old before I achieve anything.”
This is the philosophy of teenage whiz-kid Sifiso Ukaka who is on a mission to conquer the world.
Like Winston Churchill, the 2nd World War United Kingdom leader, Sifiso, believes history will be kind to her.
Her achievements so far point to someone building solid credentials.
At 16 years, Sifiso, a pupil at Chinhoyi High School is already preparing for Advanced Level examinations in June this year.
This follows a feat that captured the attention of authorities when she completed her Zimsec Ordinary Levels in June last year, attaining 9 As and a C while in Form 3. Her peers are currently preparing to sit for their O’ Level examinations.
Exuding confidence that hardly conflicts her achievements on the academic front, Sifiso possesses the qualities of an introvert which disappear the moment she opens her mouth to release profound words laced in eloquence.
The Herald caught up with Sifiso at Chinhoyi High School recently.
“I am racing against may age because I want to be an international icon, somebody who is recognised internationally not only locally,” she said tersely.
What started off as a hobby to attend vacation classes for Form 4 pupils while in the third term of her Form 2 at Mhanyame Primary School culminated in Sifiso deciding to sit for O’ Level examinations in June of 2018.
“After getting six A’s and a C in June 2018, I decided to write three other subjects because I could not be admitted to do sciences at A’ Level. So I did Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics in November of 2018,” she said.
Sifiso also came out with flying colours in the three subjects.
“During that time I had already started doing Lower 6 so I would study on my own for the three subjects. I was as confident of passing as I was when I sat for the seven other subjects. I was mostly reading on my own.”
She said her parents encouraged her to go for vacation school with Form 4s. This was when she found out that she was outperforming those who were preparing to sit for their O’ Level examinations.
Sifiso asked her parents to allow her to register for June examinations and they begrudgingly accepted to avoid disappointing her.
With a desire to be an aerospace engineer, Sifiso is dreaming of pursuing her studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, United States of America.
Her greatest worry is that she might not be able to pay for her tertiary education.
“My parents are both teachers and I had to move from Arundel to Lomugandi College and finally here at Chinhoyi High School,” she said with worry in her voice.
Her father Mr Lazarus Ukaka said her daughter has always proved to be a fast learner even in childhood.
“Sifiso has always shown that extra ability to learn fast as she scored five units at Grade 7 from four subjects in which she got two units in Shona. When she decided that she wanted to sit for her O’ Level exams in June it was difficult to accept,” he said.
“Initially she wanted to sit for 10 subjects but science subjects were not available in June. She has always had the ability to tell us the exact symbol she would have attained in an examination.”
Mr Ukaka said they have decided to support Sifiso in the career path she wants to pursue.
Sifiso’s sister Buhle (13) is also showing signs of brilliance.
“My little sister is very intelligent and I think we operate at the same level. We share a lot in common including the need to read and play sport. She is my best friend,” she said.
Sifiso has proved to be an all-rounder as she also excels in sports such as hockey, swimming and tennis among others.
She says she draws her inspiration from American politician and neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Zimbabwean telecommunications mogul Dr Strive Masiyiwa.
“I watched a movie about Ben Carson when I was in Grade 5 and that touched me. I leant the values of hard work from him. That has been my driving force ever since. Locally I am inspired by Dr Masiiwa. I am not concerned about his educational qualifications but what he has managed to do in business,” she said.
Asked about the difference she wants to make for Zimbabwe, she said her desire was to change the aviation landscape culminating in her setting up an airline.
Asked about what she wanted to change exactly, she replied curtly, the number of planes in the country.
She encouraged other girls to work hard and be confident about themselves.
School head Dr Saviours Mutopa said Sifiso had made the school proud and they would support her to achieve the feat of completing her A’ Level in record time.
“As a school we celebrate Sifiso’s achievements. We realised that we could not hold her back after she demonstrated that she would do well in new challenges,” he said.
“This is one of many achievements we have had as a school so far over and above being given the Secretary’s Bell Award in 2018. We have seen a steady improvement in our pass rate from 46 in 2017 to around 55 percent in 2018.”
Dr Mutopa said the school was improving standards to create an environment conducive for learning so that learners excel.
“The pass rate is improving at a school that does not impose stringent admission requirements. That shows that teachers and the rest of the staff are working well together for better results,” he said.
20th Century philosopher and baseball player Satchel Paige said age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter and for Sifiso the message seems to shape her thinking.
Her achievements come as Sanyati Baptist A’ Level student Macdonald Kanenga managed 30 points at A’ Level after registering six subjects.
Macdonald said he managed to achieve the feat due to hard work and focused studying.
Mashonaland West recently celebrated the academic achievements of students in the province including Knowe Primary School near Norton which had 34 pupils with five units at Grade 7 in 2018.