Durban - It will be known as the toughest matric year, with many pupils facing grief and loss because of the Covid pandemic, two years of lockdown regulations disrupting lessons, as well as additional anxiety and stress caused by the July riots.
This was highlighted yesterday at the top matrics function hosted at the Anton Lembede Mathematics and Science Academy in La Mercy, with KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala saying: “To this extra special class of 2021, we doff our hats to congratulate you for your extraordinary achievement.”
The academy was abuzz with the brightest young minds of 2021 celebrating the top ten pupils in the province as well as additional awards, including subject excellence and top pupils in each district.
Zikalala highlighted the 2021 matrics’ learning had been disrupted from Grade 11 because of the Covid outbreak, adding: “We reiterate the class of 2021 is distinctive and remarkable because it proved to be the tough battalion that went through the pain, trauma and destruction of the July 2021 inferno and unrest. It was a sad day and tragic moment in the history of our country and province where no less than 144 centres were damaged at a time when the educational budget had been slashed by R6.3 billion as part of the cost of containment measures.”
Because of the July looting, all the plans for the winter holiday intervention programme last year had to be cancelled.
The premier also acknowledged the sacrifices made by parents, many of whom faced the rising cost of living, loss of income and stress brought on by the pandemic, as well as thanking teachers, principals, school management teams and unions for their commitment during a difficult period.
The KwaZulu-Natal pass rate was 76.80%, which reflected a 0.8% drop from the 2020 pass rate (77.60%).
The number of schools achieving a 100% in passes rose from 140 in 2020 to 145 in 2021, while the total number of distinctions went from 49 999 in 2020 to 61 887 in 2021.
And for the top ten matrics ‒ most of whom scored seven distinctions ‒ it was a tight race, with many racking up marks in the high 90s and a couple of 100% marks thrown in.
The top matric pupil in the province was Cade Sayner from Kingsway High School in eManzimtoti. Sayner, who played cricket and waterpolo to balance his studies, missed some of his matric trial exams when he caught Covid, which was an additional stress because he had to rewrite those exams.
Sayner said doing past papers and “burning the midnight oil” paid off with his top results, while he also “drank way too much coffee”. He plans to study computer science or mathematics.
Taking second place was Iman Khan from Port Shepstone Secondary, wants to study medicine at the University of Cape Town.
“I want to go into genetic research. I think about how much we don’t know and how there is so much to discover in the field of stem cell research and auto-immune diseases,” she said.
In third place was Nosipho Mdlalose, who did not attend the event because she had been at the national event on Thursday evening, while tying in 4th place ‒ by sheer coincidence ‒ were Westville Girls’ High’s Danika Govender and Samir Rughbeer from Westville Boys’ High.
Govender, who is also going to study medicine, said it was a tough year as two close family members had died of Covid.
“It took its toll, but I just pushed through and made it work,” she said.
Rughbeer, who will studying mechanical engineering, described his family and friends as “his anchors” when things got stressful.
In 5th place was Dev Anilkumar, also from Port Shepstone High School, who said time management, taking breaks, planning ahead and revising work as the year went along had helped him to succeed.
In 6th place was Kial Parmanand from Kharina Secondary, who was also top matric pupil for the Umgungundlovu District. While he achieved 100% for accounting, he said he would study medicine.
Also at the event were top subject award winners, including Mxolisi Mthembu who was the top matriculant from a disadvantaged background in maths.
Inspired by legendary footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who also came from a difficult background, Mthembu also loves playing soccer and chess. Despite coming from a home with few resources, Mthembu, who attended Ikhandlelela High School in Esikhawini, outside Empangeni, said he studied for long hours to ensure his success.
Getting a special mention for academic excellence were pupils from special needs schools, including three pupils from the Open Air School in Glenwood:, Thembisa Xolo, Phiwokuhle Ndlovu and Samkelisiwe Ndlovu.
Xolo, who is visually impaired, struggled to read on the computer and was helped by her sister and friends, while Phiwokuhle Ndlovu took extra online classes, including videos on YouTube. Samkelisiwe Ndlovu studied an additional three hours every day from 6pm-9pm and now plans to study psychology.
The Independent on Saturday