Top KZN 2020 Matric achievers from Cliffton College, St Maiahs, Diocesan School for Girls, Durban's Girls College and Maris Stella school, Samira Salduker, Sahan Juggernath, Clarise Smith, Shriyaa Sooklal Kyla McLoughlin and Jessica ThomsonPicture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Top KZN 2020 Matric achievers from Cliffton College, St Maiahs, Diocesan School for Girls, Durban's Girls College and Maris Stella school, Samira Salduker, Sahan Juggernath, Clarise Smith, Shriyaa Sooklal Kyla McLoughlin and Jessica ThomsonPicture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

KZN Matrics soar over Covid hurdles

By Lorna Charles Time of article published Feb 19, 2021

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DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL private school pupils excelled under difficult Covid-19 lockdown conditions with several making it on to national top-achievers’ lists.

According to the Independent Examination Board (IEB) results, there was a 98.07% pass rate, which is slightly lower than the 98.82% of 2019.

The IEB said all candidates who passed achieved marks that were good enough to enter tertiary study at one of the three levels.

KZN schools achieved exceptional results and 15 schools had pupils on either the outstanding or commendable achievements lists or both lists.

For pupils to make the outstanding list, they must have achieved in the top 5% in six or more subjects, while to make the commendable list they must achieve in the top 5% in five subjects.

About 2 201 pupils wrote the IEB examinations at 38 schools across the province.

The board noted that the impact of Covid-19 on the schooling population saw several pupils withdraw from the year and postpone completion of Grade 12 until 2021.

IEB chief executive Anne Oberholzer said various schools were affected differently when the hard lockdown was imposed.

Oberholzer said while some schools had the necessary resources available and were able to transition smoothly to online teaching and learning – as some were already using the online system –

others could not implement an online teaching model.

“Teachers in these situations reverted to traditional distance education strategies,” she said.

These included weekly learning programmes and prepared exercises and tasks that were emailed, delivered and collected.

“The initiative of schools and teachers to continue with teaching and learning during this time is a testimony to their professionalism and the commitment of teachers and pupils, as well as the support of parents, to pivot and adapt to our changed circumstances," said Oberholzer.

She added that the matric class of 2020 had demonstrated that it was the culmination of the entire schooling experience that prepared pupils for their final matric exams.

“These achievements are proof that the Grade 12 year on its own does not provide the understanding, perseverance and resilience needed to achieve excellent results in the matric year – but that it is the culmination of work and learning over 12 or 13 years of quality

schooling,” she said.

She said that the value and significance of the NSC as a qualification that marked the end of schooling meant that its reliability as an indicator of competence and the trustworthiness of its assessment needed to be protected.

“It is these principles of reliability and trustworthiness that led the minister of basic education to take decisions during this very difficult year to protect the integrity of the qualification by not trimming the curriculum.

“In so doing, she protected the pupils of 2020 from being tarnished with the suggestion that their achievement is somehow inferior to that of pupils in other years.

“Indeed, the efforts of the minister and her department ensured that the academic year was not lost, and that pupils who were ready to move on to the next phase of their lives were not compromised and forced to place their futures on hold,” said Oberholzer.

Jonathan Manley, the executive principal of St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Kloof, which had six pupils among the top achievers lists, said the matric class of 2020 had excelled in their exams.

“We are so grateful for the way in which the community worked together to support the girls and our teachers,” he said.

He added that while the top achievers had much to celebrate, the school’s 107 girls had all achieved a Bachelor Degree pass, which spoke volumes about their work ethic and dedication.

“As a Christian school, we committed every challenge to prayer and acted in faith throughout those uncertain days of 2020.

“I want to acknowledge the many people and parents who supported and encouraged us during those tough times,” said Manley.

Cal Warwick, the executive head of Crawford International La Lucia, which had four pupils on the top achievers lists, said that coincidentally the school’s theme for last year was “Whatever it takes”, and that they had had to do whatever it took to get through the unusual year.

Warwick said that as a group, the matric pupils showed grit as they pulled together.

She said that while the teachers had to adjust to online teaching, they never compromised the integrity of their assessments.

“It was a surreal year and the pupils had wonderful support from their teachers and parents. It was a good team effort,’’ said Warwick.

WHILE some IEB matrics had a hard time overcoming the disruptive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their final school year, other Durban top achievers faced challenges that hit closer to home.

Sahaan Juggernath, a Clifton school pupil, said his matric exam journey started with heartbreak, with the death of his grandfather a day before his trial papers began.

“I know my granddad would have wanted me to do well and was always motivating me, I actually played his voice notes daily to continue to get his motivation. Sometimes they would make me laugh and sometimes make me sad.”

Sahaan said he was motivated by his parents’ support and wanting to make them and his grandfather proud.

“My dream is to become a doctor and I’m hoping to study at Wits or UKZN and that’s what I was focused on. I want to specialise in cardiology because both my grandfathers died of heart conditions. I couldn’t help them but I wish to help others.”

Samira Salduker of Durban Girls’ College acknowledged that she was privileged to go to a school with enough resources and said the support from her teachers and parents ensured she could overcome and excel despite the disruptive matric year.

“I am beyond grateful to everyone. I enjoy being inside the classroom, so my time management was a challenge but our teachers were online and ever so helpful.”

Samira said she is hoping to study a BA in English, history, anthropology and French at the University of Cape Town and hopes to go into education.

Shriyaa Sooklal, of Maris Stella, said the hardest part was adapting to the “new normal” way of learning.

“My teachers really helped. You have to have a balance, exercise, especially yoga helped me. I would advise the class of 2021 to not be daunted by matric. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype but the key is to find balance and stay consistent.”

Shriyaa has been provisionally accepted to study medicine and actuarial science at UCT.

Matthew Strauss of Kearsney College said the key to his successful results was getting to grips with online learning.

“The switch to online learning wasn’t negotiable so the best thing to do was just to get on with it. We were lucky to have great support to transition at Kearsney. I’ve always tried not to worry too much about anything and trust in God and that makes it a lot easier to tackle any situation.”

Matthew plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Pretoria.

Kyla McLoughlin, 18, of St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Kloof, said her final year of school was hard work.

She said she had to learn more on her own online. “The teachers at St Mary’s were great.”

Kyla plans to study medicine Stellenbosch University this year.

Fellow St Mary’s pupil Clarice Smith, who will be studying chemical engineering at Stellenbosch University this year, said the lockdown gave her more time to focus on the areas she felt less confident in.

She said her family supported her and encouraged her to take a break from studying. at

Another St Mary’s pupil, Jessica Thomson, said learning online had worked well for her. “It helped me formulate my own routines and methods of studying and I was able to do things the way I wanted to do them and in my own time.”

She will be doing a Bachelor of Science in human life sciences at Stellenbosch University.

TOP Pietermaritzburg and Midlands matric pupils who wrote the Independent Examination Board exams said having a balanced life and making time for leisure activities were key to their success.

Hlumelo Notshe from Hilton College, will study cognitive science, which is a combination of neuroscience, computer science and psychology, at Stanford University in the US.

Hlumelo said while he would be leaving the country to pursue his studies, his dream was to come back home to uplift communities by imparting his knowledge. He said asking for help was vital to the success of his matric year. “If there were particular challenges that I didn’t get, I humbled myself and asked for help from teachers. My parents and family were there for emotional support as well, so I was not in it alone,” he said.

Hlumelo’s advice to this year’s matrics, who may also miss out on matric milestones, was to process what would be lost due to the pandemic.

“Create different and special memories. It’s the last year of high school, get your As but take care of yourself holistically,” he added.

Attending the same school, Murray Dorward hopes to study economics and finance at the University of Edinburgh.

He said being born and raised in Zimbabwe and getting the opportunity to travel to other countries like the UK, had highlighted stark differences in terms of economic development.

“My passion for this field stems from my context and circumstance, being born and raised in Zimbabwe,” said Murray.

Completing his matric year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was unexpected and challenging, he said.

However, Murray said it allowed him to refocus his energy on his aspirations and on what he was willing to sacrifice to achieve his goals. “I had to block out the externalities which were out of my control, and rather focus on what I could control,” he said.

What was vital to his matric year was having trust in himself and being disciplined and determined.

“I would say that although the effects of Covid-19 on our learning methods were prominent, my desire to satisfy my potential was stronger,” said Murray.

He advised this year’s matrics not to settle with a half-hearted effort but rather to put in the work. “To the matrics of 2021, I would say trust yourselves and your potential and do the best with what has been provided.”

The Wykeham Collegiate pupil Clarice van Niekerk said she would be pursuing a degree in politics, economics and philosophy at the University of Cape Town. “I want to work for the World Bank or the UN in community development with a focus on human rights issues,” she said.

Clarice said having a good work ethic and being focused on her school work helped to her prepare for her final exams.

Kerstin Packham, who also attended Wykeham, said her school and teachers did an amazing job to prepare matrics for the exams.

“They put in a lot of work to help us adjust to the new normal,” she said.

She plans to study for a BCom degree in investment management at the University of Pretoria.

Sarah Church, from St Anne’s Diocesan College, said having a goal was important to her success. “I enjoy doing well and trying to get As, but am happy with my results if I know that I worked hard and did my best,” she said. Another key to her success was ensuring that she had a balanced lifestyle by taking a break from studying to walk and run.

While Sarah said she initially wanted to become a veterinarian, she now plans to study chemical engineering at Stellenbosch University.

THE first time I heard his name was in the early 1990s, when my grandmother relived the story of how she came to learn of her son’s (Uncle Sizwe’s) death. It was the Vrye Weekblad’s reporter, Jacques Pauw, who narrated the details of how Dirk Coetzee’s Vlakplaas unit abducted, tortured, shot and burnt Uncle Sizwe’s body to an ash before scattering it over the Komati River.

“If it was not for Jacques, we would have never known what happened to Sizwe!” she would say. They kept in touch. Met once or twice. Pauw held a special place in my grandmother’s heart.

I got to see more of Pauw’s hand at work when he was the executive editor of Special Assignment. It was quality investigative journalism. The awards speak for themselves.

Since then, he withered away into quiet existence as a restaurateur, book author and freelancer, to list a few that I know of.

From time to time, his name would surface on Twitter, exposing puppetmasters behind Sunday Times stories, criticising the public protector and claiming books like Lost Boys of Bird Island were filled with lies. Most recently, he was trying to sue the pants off Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi for calling him a child molester.

Put simply, the Jacques Pauw my grandmother knew and the one on Twitter did not reconcile in my mind.

And that’s the thing about social media networks like Twitter – especially for reputable or well-known figures who seek to be accessible and responsive on such platforms. Your torn seams become visible, too.

Things really fell apart for Pauw last week when the Daily Maverick published his lie-laden opinion piece: a heavily-inebriated Pauw had credit card problems at a restaurant, was unable to settle his R1 600 bill and went to withdraw the money. He was accosted by police at the ATM and swooped into police holding cells for theft.

We have since learnt that his version of events was not entirely accurate. He has since apologised. But where he overstepped the line was in using a media platform that trusted him to advance his lies.

Now we question the credibility of the Daily Maverick’s content. How many more liars slip through its editorial stratum masquerading as opinionistas and newshounds?

Daily Maverick’s editor, Branco Brkic, has since apologised and advised that it would no longer publish Pauw’s content.

In journalism, we are often taught that you are only as good as your

last story. Is this how Pauw will be remembered?

As a country, we are often accused of obsessing over the past and using the past to absolve current mishaps.

I am not going to attempt to do that, but I have often wondered about the likes of Pauw and the Jon Qwelanes of this world – journalists who were active during the height of apartheid, who also contributed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Some journalists never recovered from working with that kind of content. Some, like Pauw, by way of catharsis, wrote books like Into the Heart of Darkness: Confessions of Apartheid Assassins.

It was Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, while at UCT, who sensitised me to the reality that, during the TRC, many journalists and scribes had to undergo regular debriefing or therapy sessions. Some resorted to heavy drinking, others had mental breakdowns, suffered deep depression and so on. The stories were too much.

I cannot begin to imagine what Pauw is going through and has been through. It is easier to be engulfed by a sense of entitlement and vengefulness when you have gone through hell and back, using your pen for justice.

Writing that fake opinion piece was spurred on by a similar kind of anger – “How dare they put me in a police cell!” “How dare they treat me like apartheid police did?” and so on.

Make no mistake, I am not speaking for Pauw. I am trying to understand how someone who has experienced police brutality at its worst can pull out the most vindictive story from a mere drunken misunderstanding.

Think about it. What is the image of a police authority in the mind of someone like Pauw? What does it trigger? Add alcohol. Rethink.

Be that as it may, I write this to express my sadness in seeing one of the best go down like this. It is no wonder the good die young, to prevent us from ever seeing what they might have turned out to be.

As for journalism, we have a long way to go. Let us not celebrate the downfall of Pauw, but rather let us reflect and close any gaps that allow for any such content to seep in easily. We, as the media, have to work hard on rebuilding readers’ trust.

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