And right there holding pole position was Pretoria’s Jacqueline Janse van Rensburg in her uniform from Hoërskool Oos-Moot, who got distinctions in all eight subjects and the highest marks to be named Gauteng’s best achiever of 2017.
To applause and a standing ovation, the teenager from Equestria in Pretoria east held her audience in awe when she said: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”
She and nine fellow achievers met Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Premier David Makhura, education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and other high-ranking stakeholders to celebrate the province’s matric achievements after the results were released at midnight.
With 85.1%, Gauteng came second to the Free State and beat the Western Cape in producing the country’s best results, and Friday the 10 were congratulated and encouraged along their paths to greatness.
Lesufi said Gauteng could have done better, but protest action had disrupted schooling and affected performance of some learners.
Principals and members of school governing bodies, the education portfolio committee and MPs all attended. Teacher unions, political parties, faith-based organisations and civic associations also attended to celebrate both the learners and themselves for constantly contributing, pushing and encouraging excellence.
DA education spokesperson Khume Ramulifho said: “Many Gauteng districts performed exceptionally well and achieved outstanding results. This success must be used to unlock the potential of this province.”
He said they were impressed by the good performance, but expected more because education was vital to South Africa's future. “The DA believes education is the key to opportunities and redressing past imbalances,” he added.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union said hard work and the dedication of all parties had led to success. They urged better services and continued improvements to schools to make sure Gauteng continued to shine.
In congratulating everyone and thanking teachers, parents, communities and government for their efforts, Lesufi said the marks recorded were no small feat.
“Despite a difficult environment arising from a rapidly growing system and tough economic conditions, we registered significant achievements in the delivery of quality basic education through specific programmes and interventions,” he said.
The year had been fraught with severe budget pressures, despite which even the poorest child has access to school and quality education, he said.
Saying Gauteng had one of the largest matric enrolments of all provinces, he added that schools in the province had produced some of the highest overall pass rates and bachelor pass rates nationally.
“As a province, our contribution to the pool of young people who are positioned to (make the) transition to post-schooling employment and access further and higher education is unquestionable,” he said.
Gauteng, he said, was the second largest provincial education system to KwaZulu-Natal with 97284 matriculants sitting for last year’s exams. This represented 18% of the total enrolment for the National Senior Certificate, up on last year.
Gauteng was the only province offering learners the opportunity to communicate in all 11 official languages, in addition to offering seven non-official languages, Lesufi added, saying this made the basic education system in the province a global player for development.
He congratulated top schools for their achievements. Hoërskool Waterkloof, Hoërskool Garsfontein and Hoërskool Menlopark were the three overall best performers, and they also notched up hundreds of distinctions and the most bachelor passes.
Among those taking pride of place on his list was Soshanguve Secondary which came second among three best performing township schools. Al-Aqsa School in Laudium led the Independents.
Of the top 10 performing districts in the country, Tshwane South came third with a 89.8% pass rate and Tshwane North fifth on 88.9%. Tshwane West also performed well and got a mention in the top performing districts.
But even those learners across Tshwane who did not get the chance to share the stage with the stars of 2017 Friday told of their dreams and aspirations, and plans to become leaders of the future.
Actuarial science, information technology, music and police work fell within the careers they said they would be going into, while some who fell short of the minimum requirements to make it into tertiary facilities said they would not despair, as academics did not define who they were.
“I am just glad I achieved an education and completed matric,” Pretoria west teenager Luvhuno Mashaba said. He would join his family in running the business that had sustained them for centuries: “I can cook up a storm and have had all the learning and experience I need in our family kitchen,” he said.
Learners who fell short of expectations were urged to look further than the tertiary life. Parents were encouraged to guard against despair as there were many services to assist them.
Those unhappy with their results should seek the support of a teacher, parent or mentor to help make a decision on what to do next, remembering that there are always options. This could include rewriting some or all the subjects, doing a bridging course, or going to a TVET college.