National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Laila Choonara

Laila is from Mpumalanga and is currently studying medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand

“I had a wonderful maths teacher, Mrs Bothma, and I only realise now (after facing new challenges) that she taught me maths beyond “parroting” formulas.”

When/how did you realise you enjoyed science and mathematics more than your other school subjects? Did anyone play an important part in this, such as a teacher, parent or other role model?

I realised that I enjoyed maths and science above other subjects when I was in grade 10. My maths teacher, Mrs Bothma, taught maths in way that required you to analyse and be creative in the way you visualised and understood concepts. I think this is the reason I enjoyed maths and science: I could be logical and imaginative.

Tell us a bit about your school.

I attended Steelcrest High School. I believe that my school is special because it brings out the best in its students, of various talents. The school’s motto is “We strive for excellence”.

Did you encounter any challenges at school that made it difficult for you to achieve good marks in maths and science? If so, what did you do to overcome these challenges?

I worked consistently throughout the year.

What/who inspires you?


My best friend, Aishwarya, inspires me. She is absolutely brilliant. She has an immense respect for and values education. I, myself, have learnt and adopted these values from her. She also taught me that nothing is worth compromising who you are and how you feel. It is very important to have the right friends during our formative years as they make us who we are.

What advice do you have for matriculants who have to apply for places at higher education institutions?

Make sure that you fully understand the course that you are committing to and what it entails in the short term as well as the long term. Do your research before applying.

Why did you choose the course you are studying now?

I am studying medicine at Wits. I enjoy learning and studying in general but I chose a course that I thought I would be best at.

Where do you see yourself five years from now, in terms of your studies/career?

In 5 years I will be completing the final year of my degree.

Anything else you would like to share that would be helpful to learners in Grades 11 and 12?

Pursue your passion, whether it is academics, sports, culture or arts. Do what makes YOU happy.

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