Once upon a time in Ezakheni, a township located in Ladysmith KwaZulu-Natal, there was a girl named Nokuphila. She was always vibrant, cool and fun to be around. She was 18 years of age and doing her matric. This young energetic girl grew up under the guardianship of her grandmother.

In the township, Nokuphila used to hang out with a group of boys on the township street corners. Her grandmother never had a problem with the fact that her granddaughter was more friendly with the boys than she was with the girls. Her grandmother was not bothered by Nokuphila’s choice of friends because she believed that boys were better companions than the township girls who had nothing positive to do but were always discussing other people’s problems and what other people were doing with their lives.

Nokuphila did not just hang out with boys; she also had several boyfriends at school and around her neighbourhood and she was considered a ‘ho’ and a bad girl with no self-respect. Nokuphila lost her virginity at the age of 16 while she was doing Grade 10. She did not just have many boyfriends, but she also openly admitted that she did not have one boyfriend but many of them, and that is why she was called a local ‘ho’.

Nokuphila was one complicated woman who liked boys but still managed to pass all her subjects very well. She never attended the weekend classes and everyone at school simply assumed that she was with one of her boyfriends. Most people in the township community thought Nokuphila would fall pregnant and not pass her matric because of her naughty behaviour. Nokuphila never changed her act or her behaviour throughout the year. The neighbours expected the worst but her classmates, the people who knew Nokuphila, always saw good grades whenever term results were released at school.

When Nokuphila was interviewed by the journalist of the local newspaper, the Ladysmith Gazette, she said: “I always knew what I wanted. I never cared about the bad things people said about me behind my back. Some people had the guts to tell me to my face that I was a hoe, but all that did not keep me down. I thought of my late parents who died inside our burning house when I was very young. I wanted to make my late parents proud of me wherever they are, as I believe that they are watching over me. At school, the other learners and my lost friends (who once accused me of wanting their boyfriends), thought I was into silly things, but every night at home I opened my books and studied.”

“Every day I would remind myself that in future, when I am successful, I want to build my grandmother a big beautiful house. I owe her so much for all the support and unconditional love she has always given me. My grandmother has been so good to me and she never judged me like most people did, as she understands me. I used to hate Maths and Accounting but I knew that I had to pass my matric very well before I could work on making my dreams come true. So, on weekends I would meet with the people who were better than me in Mathematics from different schools.”

“Today I stand proud in front of you, my grandmother, my critics and those who did not believe that I could do it and those who wished I wouldn’t make it. I am proud to say I got five distinctions.”

This was the day she found out that she had earned herself a bursary to study law at any law school in South Africa. There is a lot one can learn from Nokuphila’s story; just like learning to know who you are and that what other people think of you does not define who you are. Everyone is destined for success. You need to stay loyal to your ambitions. Finally, never judge a book by its cover.