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Sbo Khumalo

Nobody will believe you unless you believe in yourself.

Where on Earth is Mooi River? When Sbongakonke Khumalo applied for a bursary to attend Treverton School, she didn’t have a clue. From her home in Empangeni, it took her family many hours to get there on their first trip, getting lost four times along the way. “My father is one of those men who won’t ask for directions!” She explains.

The interview should have been really scary, but she felt comfortable right from the start and had obviously found her new home in the Midlands.

“In the beginning people found it hard to pronounce my name, so even the shortened Sbo, soon became “Bo” and “Boo”. Nowadays, I am known as “Bokkie”! Certainly, she is greeted with warmth wherever she wanders in the school grounds and is obviously popular with fellow pupils and teachers alike. At Lind House Hostel, Mrs Idas the House Mother, is effusive in her praise. “Sbo has real dignity, grace and honesty. She is a great leader of the hostel and makes my job so much easier.” Sbo adds “I have learnt that with teenage girls, shouting and punishing just doesn’t work. I talk to them about issues and always remind them that they have potential. Sometimes, someone has a problem at home which causes unsuitable behaviour. We have to be thoughtful and kind. It is quite a responsibility.”

With their Matric year almost over, everyone is promising to keep in touch with their special friends, even planning their 10 year reunion. “We really are like family now, we share so much and have bonds to last a lifetime. When we meet with other schools, they are surprised at how close we all are.”

Free time is spent playing pool, watching movies, making popcorn and listening to music. Sbo believes that the comfortable and safe environment of Treverton has enabled her and her friends to grow and prepare themselves confidently for the big wide world, providing the foundation for a well-balanced life. The Treverton Wilderness Area beside the school offers space to explore and relax away from the school. “Often my friend Moses, aka Robbie Alison, takes me to the mountain for some quiet time. We like to pray there.”

History, Drama and Afrikaans are Sbongakonke’s favourite subjects. She recalls the fun she had in the school production of ‘Big Bass Drum’ last year and enthuses about being chosen to perform in the school Musical Review. “I love soulful music and jazz. I sang the Alicia Keys duet ‘Superwoman’ with Janine Koopman. It was wonderful.” This year, she and friends put on an experimental drama around the theme of how men don’t always think with their heads – “That was so much fun and we realised that men are taught to apologise for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” Afrikaans seems an unlikely favourite subject for a Zulu girl, but Sbo explains that it is really the fabulous teacher, Sonia Cairns, who has made her love Afrikaans. “We have the same sense of humour and sometimes no one else gets the joke we are laughing at!” giggles Sbo.

Growing up in Empangeni as an only child, she was surrounded by extended family, which still plays an important role in her life. Sbo’s grandparents have high expectations and, she reckons, constantly inspire her to achieve her best. “I am my dad’s little princess” she quips. “My mom is my hero, she is hilarious and sarcastic and gorgeous.” She speaks of challenging times and her admiration for how her mother handled the difficulties. Mrs Khumalo is a nurse at Ngwelezane Hospital in Richards Bay. “When she is working shifts, and I am home, I try to help with cooking. I make great spaghetti bolognese. The thing I miss most about home is my mom’s cooking, especially her ijeqe and beef stew.”

Sbo is extremely grateful for the opportunities which have come her way. An N3 Toll Concession assisted bursary enabled her to receive an education which would not have been possible for her family to provide. “At first my parents were nervous and a bit surprised at the warm welcome they got at Treverton from the staff and my fellow pupils. Now they feel at home too and just love my friends – my dad is wild about Megan!” Megan Buckle adds “I got along great with Mr Khumalo right from the first time we met. He is so easy to talk to, unlike some of the other parents. He is always interested in hearing what Bokkie has been doing.”

Nowadays, the trip to and from school is stress free and the family confidently winds along the country roads past the small towns of Greytown and Kranskop and Stanger. Sbo can’t wait for the new trip to University next year – a slightly different direction, probably on the Greyhound bus. She plans to study law (if her bursary application is successful). “I enjoy debating and analysis and helping people. I believe Law is the perfect place for me to do these things and will offer many challenges, which I will love. Making a difference in other people’s lives is the most special feeling in the world.”

She concludes confidently “Treverton has helped me discover who I am and who I want to be in the future.”