National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Keanu Canto is studying Civil Engineering

Keanu Canto is studying Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria. He attended high school at Willowridge in Pretoria.

An achiever is someone who has an ambitious vision,
and who gives it their all to make that vision a reality,
no matter the circumstances that they find themselves in. 

Tell us a bit about your school?


In 2019 I matriculated from Willowridge High School in Pretoria, Gauteng. Here I had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people from an array of backgrounds which allowed me to broaden my horizons and perspectives on life. Also, Willowridge’s passionate school spirit is unmatched and provided an inspiring and motivational influence.

Why do you think some people have a problem with math and science? What would you do to solve the problem?


Math and science are built on understanding – they can be a nightmare if you do not know the basics – which are the foundation of understanding these subjects. Yet, they can be a breeze if you do know the basics. Many people who could not grasp the basics at school then consider themselves forever incapable of being able to do math and science. I think people should be encouraged to think of their ability to do math and science as not being some innate ability but being dependent on perfecting the basics, having a growth mindset and a willingness to practice. Lastly, I believe that math and science should, from a young age, be taught in an engaging way that demonstrates their usefulness in real life. This will build a stronger foundation for further studies.

Why did you enjoy science and maths?

I find the way that science and math fit into the world beautiful, and I love the multiple ways in which real-world problems can be solved using math and science. I also enjoy a good challenge and math problems are some of the most satisfying ones when you finally get them right after poring over them for hours. I also enjoy the objectiveness of mathematics and science compared to the subjectiveness of other subjects such as literature.

What inspires you?


I like to draw inspiration from a variety of aspects in life – whether you are admiring people that carry out great technological feats, people who have made something out of nothing, or nature and the world around you, I believe that you can learn something from everything and everyone in life. My family has also inspired and motivated me throughout my life, and I would not be where I am today without them.

Why did you choose the course you are studying?


I chose to study Civil Engineering as I one day hope to specialise in Environmental Engineering, and design things such as “greener” infrastructure, better waste and water management systems and other solutions to some of the environmental and humanitarian problems facing the world, as I have been passionate about the environment since I was a child. I believe that we all have the responsibility to make the world a better place and I hope to do this through my chosen study course and career.

A message to South African youth?

Do not be afraid to dream – your future is entirely up to you and with the right mindset you will be able to turn your dreams into reality, no matter what anyone else says. Always remember that no-one owes you anything in life. It is up to you to secure a bright future for yourself. Look for ways in which you can be independent and possibly even work for yourself – entrepreneurship opens many doors in even the darkest of rooms.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?


These last two years of high school are extremely important and can be used by you to secure a bright future – so make them count and work hard. However, remember that if these two years do not work out as planned, there are still many opportunities which will come your way. Also remember to take time to enjoy your last years at school. Participate in sports and cultural activities. I found them to be a great way to take my mind off work, achieve balance in life, relax and meet new people.

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


To have a better chance at getting in, apply at several higher education institutions and do not leave your applications to the last minute – courses sometimes fill up long before the application closing date. Secondly, although your parents and teachers might be telling you that this last year of school is one of the most important of your life and can make or break your future, if things do not work out how you expect them to, there are still many options available. You are still very young and can make anything happen in your life.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

In 10 years from now I hope to be a qualified engineer who has specialised in Environmental Engineering. I hope to have started a small business by then, which designs things such as “green” infrastructure, wastewater treatment plants and energy projects which are better for the environment and human health. I would also love to start a non-profit organisation that strives to protect ecosystems – which provide vital ecosystem services to people – and that designs and rolls out affordable, sustainable, grassroots solutions to problems facing impoverished communities.

Understanding excellence – what makes an achiever?

An achiever is someone who has an ambitious vision, and who gives it their all to make that vision a reality, no matter the circumstances that they find themselves in.

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