TALE OF HOPE: Lance Minnies, 18, receives his awards from Education MEC Debbie Schäfer
Teenage fire survivor Lance Minnies has literally risen from the ashes to receive three special ministerial awards from the Western Cape MEC for Education at the provincial matric awards.

The 18-year-old had been left with 90 percent burns to his body after a fire which claimed the lives of eight people at a friend’s home in Macbeth Street, Eastridge, on 12 June 2016.

But last week, the Beacon Valley youngster not only became the first in his family to matriculate, he also received a Higher Education Certificate with top scores for his two languages and Life Orientation.

Lance was in Grade 11 at AZ Berman High School when the tragedy struck and was forced to repeat the year. But he never gave up despite suffering depression and nearly dropping out.

Apart from the burns, four of his toes also had to be amputated.

Alfonso Swartz, 35; his 22-month-old daughter Tamia Swartz; Tamia’s siblings Cameron Fredericks, six, and Elmarie Fredericks, five; their cousins, also siblings, Nikita Abrahams, three, Joshua Abrahams, 13, Kyle Abrahams, 18; and their cousin Arafaat Madatt, 14, all died in the fire.

Owner of the property, Patrick Abrahams, 54, lost three children and three grandchildren. His ex-wife Verona Abrahams, 52; their daughters Gloria Abrahams, 31, Shanice Abrahams, 22; and friend Nawaal Erasmus, 23, survived.

Lance was in a coma after the fire and had been rushed to hospital where doctors put him on life support.

Today Lance still has wounds on both of his feet and is unable to wear school shoes.

He’s had a series of surgeries and skin grafts.

Lance shares a small wooden backyard structure with his parents and six siblings. The main house is home to 14 other relatives.

Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, says Lance is a true fighter and was awarded for his bravery academically: “Lance Minnies has faced serious trauma with fortitude.

“Because of ongoing abuse, he found a safe place at the home of his pastor over weekends.

“However, in the winter of 2016, this house burnt down with eight fatalities, leaving Lance the only survivor with 92% body burns, which he had sustained while trying to save the lives of two of the children in the house.

“He also lost some toes as a result of the fire and has faced multiple surgeries. A long period of hospitalisation and medical treatment after this tragedy led to his having to repeat Grade 11.”

Hammond says Lance is a living example of someone who didn’t give up: “The school pays tribute to his rugged determination and dogged optimism, in the recovery period, despite what they call a ‘laundry list of debilitating conditions’.

“Not surprisingly, Lance battled with depression, and on more than one occasion wanted to drop out of school. As a result of dedicated support from his school, he persisted.

“Lance has been awarded a Higher Certificate, with top scores being for his two languages and Life Orientation and is the first member of his family to matriculate.”

Lance was also given a R10 000 cheque towards his studies this year.

“It was amazing and I felt so honoured to meet the minister,” he says. It was a ‘wow’ moment walking down to the stage. I feel proud of myself and I am so grateful and thankful.”

Asked what he plans to study this year, he says he is still deciding: “I will be going to a college for a six-month course.

“I haven’t decided what I want to do yet.”

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