By Rivonia Naidu and Lisa-Marie Els
Sschool pupils in KwaZulu-Natal who are feeling the pressure of the imminent end-of-year examinations and are in need of some encouragement should look no further than the inspirational Wayne Fredericks.
The Southlands Secondary ex-pupil came first in the province in the 2007 matric exams, achieving an incredible aggregate of 98,5 percent.
Although such results are generally achieved by pupils at private schools, Fredericks showed millions around the country that all odds can be overcome and that determination is the real key to success.
Writing additional language papers on Wednesday, on Thursday and Friday, the computer application technology practical on Thursday and the information technology practical on Friday, KZN matric pupils have begun their first matric exam under the new Outcomes Based Education curriculum.
Pupils in other grades begin their exams from next week.
"Every setback is a setup for a comeback," is a motto coined by Fredericks, who believes it is a mantra all pupils, in particular matrics, should take to heart.
"I used it to inspire my friends during exams last year," he said, "and we all passed, so I think it worked!"
Although his family lives in modest circumstances, Fredericks attributes his success to the way he was raised.
"They inspired me to do well," he said, "and taught me how to go about life."
Fredericks thinks the most important lesson he learnt was to compete against himself, rather than others.
"Throughout my life I have worked at bettering myself," he said. "At the end of every term I would look back at my results and aim to improve on them, so I would never compete against anyone else. If I did come first, then so be it. I was just trying to be the best I could be."
Fredericks said matric pupils should not be anxious about the new syllabus.
"View it as your year and don't fixate on previous years," he advised.
"Practise the sections that stand out as important, and you should be fine."
Now an electronic engineering student at UKZN, he believes revision was the cornerstone of his success, and advised this year's matrics to revise as much as possible. However, Fredericks believes that training the body is as important as honing the mind.
"I exercised frequently and made sure I stayed off the junk food. I would also hang out with friends to relax," he said.
Durban psychologists had some handy advice for pupils writing exams.
They said it was important to ensure adequate rest beforehand; to eat healthy food, like fruit and vegetables; and to take breaks to clear the mind and destress.
Psychologist Rita Suliman said once an exam was over, pupils should not immediately throw themselves into studying for the next one. She said pupils should prepare an exam kit containing all the stationery required to write the exams to avoid last-minute panic.
Durban North psychologist James Sharratt said the first thing pupils should understand was that preparation was vital and that some measure of stress before an exam was normal.
"But when the stress and anxiety becomes unbearable, and one can't concentrate, or if a pupil suffers from insomnia as a result, it is important he or she seek professional counselling," Sharratt said.
"If pupils feel severely stressed, they must either tell their parents so they can get help, speak to their life orientation teachers, or call Lifeline for counselling," he said.
He said those pupils who had additional stress at home should seek help from professionals to help them get through the exams.