Jonathan Kalombo, 21, has his heart and mind focused on achieving his goals and making an excellent future. Jonathan was born in Congo DRC, but moved to South Africa in 2002 where he had to embrace a different setting and environment, including a new language.

“I moved to South Africa, Cape Town in 2002 and stayed in Capricorn for ten years. That’s where I grew up. I remember very little of life before Capricorn. I had friends in the community of mixed race such as Coloured and isiXhosa children.”

Living in a township for ten years was not easy, as he explains.

“Because Capricorn is a township you get robbed a lot but at some point everyone in the community knows you so they stop robbing you. In grade 9 most of my friends dropped out of school and started using drugs and joining gangs. I became one of those children who was never outside because everyone I used to be friends with left or became gangsters.”

Jonathan explains his difficulty he had embracing a new language and environment.

“I always had difficulties, from learning how to speak English in grade 2 which was a nightmare, imagine walking into a grade 2 class and there’s not one person that can speak the language you speak.”

After getting the hang of English he had to master another South African language, Afrikaans.

“I realised I had to learn Afrikaans, this thing wasn’t gonna go away anytime soon,” he laughs. “So my mother would take me to Vrygrond community library. That’s where I learned a lot and where I fell in love with books. I started going there on a weekly basis. But my mother made a rule that for every three books I had to take one Afrikaans book. I could have just taken any Afrikaans book and not read it at all, but I decided to force myself to read it. By the time I got to grade 7 I was one of the best Afrikaans speaking students.”

It was this determination that allowed Jonathan to go further than the mediocre.

Jonathan received the subject award for Mathematics in grade 9.

“Maths was the subject I loved and focused on at that time. But when I got to grade 10 I started thinking about my future. I strived to become a top student at the school.”

Jonathan never gave up on his goal of becoming top in his entire school.

“In grade 11 I became top student in my school and remained top student until my final year. I finished matric with six distinctions. I made sure that Afrikaans was one of them. I wanted to prove that I could do it. When I received the subject award for Afrikaans it was my proudest moment.”

Jonathan is not just an academic genius but he is also musically inclined.

“I always wanted to learn music. I had a deep passion for it. I went through many teachers who gave up on me and said I should not be playing music. I felt discouraged but I got a teacher by the name of Toto Lukusa Cibangu and he forced me to practice four times a week, four hours a day. Within weeks I became better in music, I never gave up and now I do music every day.”

He enrolled at UCT to study Actuarial Science and realised it demanded more of his time than he had to give away.

“Studying Actuarial Science keeps me busy, there is no time for myself, music had to take a back seat for a while. But I managed to start a YouTube channel where I can put my music on whenever I have time. I believe if you truly want something, make time for it.”

Jonathan continues to learn on a daily basis.

“I read books and articles and watch TED talks on how to make studying easier.” He wants to keep music and academics in his life. “I don’t intend to choose one of these careers at the end. I love both, I imagine it would be possible to do both.”

Jonathan is a role model to his siblings as he has four younger ones behind him.

“I have to set a bar for them and be an inspiration for them. Part of the reason I had to study in grade 10, my brother walks into Muizenberg High and he’s top student, and I’m like, I can’t let my younger brother beat me. It was part of my motivation. But we got the same average in matric.”

Jonathan had a few words to say to those currently in matric:

“The best time to have started preparing for your matric exams was in grade 1,” he laughs, “but the second best time is now. Keep your emotions until control. At the end of the day, what’s important is to say that these marks represent the best effort I could put in at that time. If you’re able to say that it’s the best you did at that time then that’s all that matters.”

He also continues to say that comparison is a dangerous field to dwell in.

“I don’t compare myself to my friends or get sad or jealous when I see my friends marks that are higher than mine, because I know I did my best.”

Jonathan concludes with a light word of encouragement to anyone facing a new environment: “The responsibility is on you to connect with the people around you. You can’t sit and say people aren’t talking to me or smiling at me, you have to go out and be the one to talk first and smile first, eventually someone will talk to you. When they said knock and the door will be opened, they didn’t mean knock once, so keep knocking.”

Jonathan conquered the challenges that faced him as he grew up, and now juggles between his academics and his music. He is now a UCT Actuarial Science student and a YouTube musician who plays four instruments and sings.

To follow Jonathan’s Facebook page, you can like: Jonathan Mpata Kalombo – Music

You can subscribe to Jonathan’s YouTube channel: Jonathan Mpata Kalombo