Graduate causes social media frenzy

Darren van Roodt with University of Western Cape registrar Professor Nita Lawton-Mizra.

How old is he? That question caused quite a stir on social media when a picture of Darren van Roodt was posted the day he graduated cum laude with a B.Sc Honours in Computer Science degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Among the 60 cum laude and 16 summa cum laude degrees conferred in the natural sciences on Friday April 7, the Maitland resident drew extra attention, thanks to his youthful appearance – not looking a day older than 13.

Many wondered how such a young boy was able to accomplish something so remarkable, but 22-year-old Darren tells a serious story behind the origins of his youthful looks.

“I was about six years old when I began complaining about headaches – and that’s when the doctors found that I had a tumour on my brain,” he says. “It was removed, and it affected my growth.”

He’s come a long way since his days at Koeberg Primary and later Rhodes High School, in Mowbray, where he completed matric in 2012.

Darren was a great student at UWC, and for the last three years of his degree he has consistently been one of the top three achievers in UWC’s Computer Science Department.

“Currently I am working in the quantitative risk analytics team as a systems analyst, which means I take care of the technological systems that determine credit rating for any corporate that does banking with Rand Merchant Bank,” he said.

His parents, Stanley and Jill, couldn’t be more proud of their middle child, and his varsity friends call him a problem solver and innovative thinker who works well with others.

“I’m really grateful to my family and friends who were there for me through the tough and fun times while at university.”

Back in 2015, he and his friends competed in the Standard Bank IT Challenge and made it to the finals. Two years earlier, in 2013, Darren and four of his friends won the Codejam competition by developing an app that lets students connect with tutors for help with maths problems.

Darren wants to create his own company one day to develop similar education apps.