8 As for pupil whose mother died

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Durban - As Durban North pupil Kathryn Stranex picked up her pen to write her matric exams last year she had to push aside the death of her mother to breast cancer just weeks before in order to focus.

Not only did she get through the exams but on Thursday she will celebrate achieving eight distinctions during a time she describes as “tough, mad and blurred”.

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CAPTION: Kathryn Stranex and her dad, Mark. Kathryn's mum died of breast cancer in the middle of her trial exams. She went on to write her finals and achieved 8 distinctions.
PICTURE: Colleen DardaganMarc Gutierrez, of Crawford College, not only scored 10 distinctions, but also stood by his girlfriend, Kathryn (pictured above) who lost her mother to cancer shortly before the exams.

“My mother Carol was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She had all the treatment but halfway through last year they realised it wasn’t helping so they stopped it. She went down very quickly towards the end and died while I was writing my trial exams,” Kathryn said, her eyes brimming.

Sitting close to her dad, Mark, the petite teenager attributed her success to her boyfriend, Marc Gutierrez, also a Crawford pupil, who scored 10 distinctions, and to God, her church and her family.

Kathryn, who will study music and English at UCT, said that playing the piano was another lifesaver. “My mum was a music teacher, there was a specific sonnet by Liszt which we both loved. I used to play that when I was really down. It was difficult to concentrate and get back to the reality of the exams after all the madness. It was tough.”

Her father said it was a proud moment. “I am just over the moon.”

Marc scored nine As in the NSC and a 10th distinction for additional maths, an externally moderated paper, but his greatest achievement, according to Kathryn, was being her support. “The school was kind to me and I didn’t have to finish my trials but it was a few weeks and then we started our finals.”

Marc, whose parents are missionaries from the US, said he found the exams easy.

He might study medicine in the US but was torn between being a doctor and a jazz guitarist. “Perhaps my guitar playing will be soothing for my patients,” he laughed.

Sixteen Grade 12s at Crawford La Lucia scored distinctions of eight each and above, making it one of KZN’s top schools.

Annika Valjee, who came sixth in the province with distinctions for all her nine subjects, said she wished she had had time to study more. “My grandfather died during the year which meant my mom was away quite a lot. It was a sad time.”

Theshan Naidoo, who achieved nine distinctions and a B for the additional maths paper, said the school had prepared him well.

He said the Australian-based Victorian Curriculum Authority, an internationally recognised exam which the school follows while writing NSC exams, was his secret to success. “We write the VCA in our trials so I found the finals easier.” - The Mercury

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