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Liso Ngoqo

Passion for people

Victor Compton

Liso Ngoqo wants to use the opportunities afforded to him to serve the poor. The Grade 11 Hilton College learner is considering studying economics with a view to a career in politics. With a mom who lectures IT at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth and a father who runs a construction company, Liso comes from an entrepreneurial family, where the values of hard work and a good education are prized.

“When I was six years old, I got my first big opportunity, which was to go to Stirling Primary School [state school] in East London. As a child you don’t understand these things, but I went to Stirling from Grade R to Grade 5. Then one night my mom sat me down and said, ‘I think you need to move to Cowan House [an independent school in Hilton].’ At first, I was hesitant, because I didn’t know about these types of schools and had never been to KwaZulu-Natal. But when I got to Cowan House everyone was so welcoming. I started to realise the opportunities that lay ahead. I was at Cowan House for two years, before coming to Hilton College.

“At Hilton, I realized my passion for politics. I want to become a politician to help people. Many of our politicians have let the electorate down by serving their own interests. I know a lot of people who are bound by the shackles of poverty. I remember my interview with [Hilton College headmaster] Mr [George] Harris when I was in Grade 7. He said, ‘If opportunity is not used to benefit others, then opportunity is wasted.’ That has stuck with me. When you enter a space like this, as a child who has seen both extremes of life, you appreciate your privilege.

“Quite a lot of people in my family are poverty-stricken and I think about the things they appreciate, like going to the beach. They’re from King Williams Town and they just enjoy the simple things in life. It’s a humbling thing, to see that side of life and then to walk into a space like this… where there are people with a big safety net under them, [to catch them] if they don’t succeed here. I’m grateful I don’t have that luxury. I have to give my all to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”