St Stithian’s Girls’ College is on South Africa’s list of best-performing schools for 2020.
St Stithian’s Girls’ College is on South Africa’s list of best-performing schools for 2020.

Jessica James is not your average maths genius and matric top achiever

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Feb 19, 2021

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Durban - While many learners frown upon mathematics and having to solve simultaneous equations, some are natural-born number crunchers, pushing past the norm. One such learner is Jessica James from St Stithian’s Girls’ College in Gauteng, who achieved eight distinctions.

Since Grade 10, James wrote the final matric mathematics exam instead of the paper set for her peers, and had consistently achieved over 90%.

The head of the mathematics department, Tim Schaerer, said this was an exceptional accomplishment.

Between 2016 and 2020, she competed in the junior and senior mathematics olympiads, achieving consistently high-standard results and being selected for the third round in 2016, 2018 and 2019. In 2016, James was placed in the top 100 students and in 2017, she was placed 10th for the Junior Mathematics Olympiad. In 2018, James was placed in the top 100 students and in 2019, she was placed in the top 50 students overall.

Pictured is Jessica James.

During her time at St Stithian’s Girls’ College, James was also a dedicated participant at numerous mathematics competitions including: Tour de Maths, the SA Mathematics Team Competition and the Wits Mathematics Competition. James received high accolades in many of these mathematics competitions.

In 2017, her team was placed first in the SA Mathematics Team Competition. In 2018, she was awarded best female student and placed fourth at the Wits Mathematics Competition, overall. In 2019, she was again awarded best female student and placed in the top 10. Furthermore, James completed both her Advanced Subsidiary Level and Advanced Level in mathematics in 2018, for which she achieved a level 7.

St Stithian’s Girls’ College is witness to James being a remarkably talented mathematician, who does not rely on pure talent but maintains an impressive work ethic, resulting in her outstanding academic record throughout her schooling career.

James has also excelled in many other academic areas, and in 2019, she participated in the Language Olympiad where she received a silver award for the English Olympiad. Additionally, she achieved excellent results in the Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française A2 exam in 2019 and the B1 level examination in 2020.

“Jessica is able to compete with the crème de la crème in the French-speaking world,” said proud head of French Bernadin Bango.

And head of Afrikaans Elizabeth Mollema remembers her determination to improve her marks from Grade 8 by taking every opportunity to speak the language to anyone who was willing to listen.

In her Grade 11 and matric year, James’ efforts culminated in an Academic Honours Award – one of St Stithian’s Girls’ College’s highest and most significant achievements. Furthermore, she received the Dux Scholar Award in both her Grade 11 and matric year. This is awarded to the student with the top academic results at the end of the year, and is a revered and respected achievement.

Her outstanding National Senior Certificate results have earned her the college’s prestigious Academic Honours Summa Cum Laude award for achieving an average of 90% or above, and she plans to study applied mathematics and physics at UCT.

James is not all numbers and books; she also enjoys playing sports and competes in mountain biking. In 2019, she completed the Berg and Bush two-day original cycling competition, where she was declared the winner of the ladies’ team.

In addition to her mountain biking achievements, she was also a dedicated participant of cross-country running. In her Grade 11 year, she won the most improved senior award for cross-country.

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