Fees Must Fall activist and former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini has encouraged matric pupils at Alexandra High School to excel academically to escape poverty.
He visited the school on Tuesday morning to inspire the children to achieve distinctions and attend university.
Score those distinctions and the rest is history - Dlamini
"We're saying to the black man, it is possible, and the only ticket out of the hood is the distinctions. Score those distinctions and the rest is history," he said emphatically.
Dlamini said children living in underprivileged areas went to school hungry and had to care for siblings and other family members. "Before you start your day, you are already on the back foot. Our challenge is to break the odds and not succumb to the difficulties, to fight poverty with everything that we have."
Dlamini told the pupils that they needed to work hard, and only had to persevere for a few more months.
"In the next six months you'll be Wits material. This is the time you need to give it everything you have.
"You owe it to your parents, you owe it to yourselves and you owe it to the future to excel and make South Africa a better place. We need your brains. We need young black minds to assist us to move the country forward and to compete with the first world countries."
The more pupils who achieved distinctions, the more pressure government would be under to build additional universities, he said.
Dlamini told News24 he was visiting the school because many children regarded him as a role model. He wanted to make a contribution to the "struggle of the black child".
"It's not all about the protesting, it's also about academic excellence."
Members of the ANC Youth League joined Dlamini on Tuesday morning. He was at the forefront of protests at Wits University to demand free tertiary education.
He was arrested at his university residence on October 16 and charged with violating a court order, public violence, assault, theft, and damage to property. Initially he was denied bail. He appealed against the decision and was released the following month on R2 000 bail.
On Friday, High Court in Johannesburg Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng said he had decided to rule in Dlamini's favour because the State had not produced police video footage in which he was allegedly seen throwing rocks at police officers.
Dlamini insisted that the charges against him were politically motivated. His trial would begin in June.