DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL top achievers in the 2021 matric exams believe that early preparations, hard work and strong family support are some of the key ingredients for a Grade 12 pupil to do well in the exams.
The eight pupils were invited, along with their counterparts from other provinces, to an exclusive breakfast hosted by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, in Joburg yesterday.
In an interview with The Mercury, they spoke of how they attended extra classes which went on through the weekend and used previous exam papers to prepare themselves for the most important exam of their lives. The pupils alluded to the difficulties they endured under Covid-19, as well as the challenge of internet access.
Mhlengi Shange,17, of Menzi High School in uMlazi who emerged as one of the top achievers, attributed his success to endless motivation from teachers and his parents. The township school is one of the most sought after institutions in KZN and is known for consistently producing good results.
“The reason that I came to this school was because there is no room for failure given the amount of effort from the teaching staff. This is a reflection of their motivation to all of us as learners,” said Mhlengi.
He conceded that it had been difficult to learn under Covid-19 restrictions, indicating that it was the support from his parents that enabled him to navigate the past two difficult years.
“We would have extra lessons from early in the evening until the early hours of the following morning and then my parents would call a cab for me, fearing for my safety. It was such efforts that encouraged me to do well and I am really happy to have done well,” Mhlengi said.
His parents described him as a consistent top achiever, pointing to the many accolades he had won over the years, including a science competition in India in 2014 where he represented South Africa.
“It is as if a heavy load has been lifted off my shoulder. I am really proud of how my son has performed,” said his mother, Slindile Mtungwa.
Lunga Dube, from Vryheid Comprehensive School, recalled that he started preparing for his final year in the second week of January last year.
“I knew that if I wanted to do well there was a need to start early and so that is what I did. There would be times when I studied alone and then work in a group and that really helped me,” he said yesterday, adding that he has set his sights on studying a mechanical engineering degree at a tertiary institution of his choice.
For Iman Khan, of Port Shepstone Secondary School on the South Coast, being one of the top achievers in the country was a humbling experience and provided a chance to pursue medicine at UCT.
“What we have gone through as a country under Covid-19 has encouraged me to study medicine so that I can be at the cutting edge of medical breakthroughs,” said Iman.
An ecstatic 17-year-old Mlungisi Mgwaba, of Siyabonga High School in Illovo, couldn’t believe that he had been invited to Joburg for being a top achiever.
“I could not believe it when I received the news. I was very happy and surprised because I was not anticipating it. Sure, I worked hard, but I had no idea I would be this successful,” said the matriculant.
For 17-year-old Phila Mbuyisa, of Nsamalanga High School in KwaNgwanase in northern KZN, one of the main challenges was the constant load shedding which made it difficult to study at night.
“Although I have not seen my results yet, I am extremely happy that I completed my matric so exceptionally well and even went as far as being chosen as a top performer in the province. That is big for me,” said Phila.
Azraa Ebrahim, a top achiever from Open Air Special School, who has a visual impairment, described 2021 as a challenging year which demanded a lot of focus and motivation. Having done well in her final year, she now plans to study law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
“I would like to emulate my mother and pursue legal studies so that I can make a difference and bring justice to ordinary people,” said Azraa.
Two other KZN pupils who were invited to the briefing, Asandamanyanda Nosipho Mdlalose of Bethamoya High School and Siyanda Anele Gumede of the KwaThintwa School for the Deaf, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In her address to the top achievers, Motshekga described the pupils as true ambassadors of the country’s public education system.
“The Class of 2021 is literally and figuratively in a class of its own. It is the only class so far that studied for two consecutive years under the state of disaster measures to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19,” said Motshekga.