Hard work, dedication and finding a balance between school and life.
Those are the qualities that the top achievers in the matric exams said they needed to succeed.
On Friday the Independent Examination Board (IEB) released the matric results for its schools, recording a 98% pass rate. These are the private schools and the release of the results for state schools is still to come.
Some IEB schools obtained a 100% pass rate.
In Johannesburg, King David High School in Linksfield produced 532 distinctions from the 153 matrics who wrote the IEB exams.
"It was a very intense year, but it was one of the years that I learnt the most. I think because it was so challenging, I gained a lot that I haven't in previous years," said Roni Katz from King David, who earned 10 distinctions and now plans to take a gap year to travel to Israel. "I chose my subjects because it would get me where I want to go. The maths and science would get me to engineering, hopefully. The rest I chose for personal interest. I love history, I love English... I love music."
Her mother Carron Katz described her as not focusing only on school. "She has a very strong moral compass, she has been very involved in people's rights and encouraging people to accept everyone and not judge. Her school life is very important, but her school life hasn't defined her."
Gabriella Lipshitz made it into the top 1% in six of her subjects. Gabriella, who attended King David High School, said that being involved in extramural activities and having a solid support foundation was her key to finishing the year on a high. She obtained 9 distinctions, in accounting, Afrikaans, English, Hebrew, history, life orientation, mathematics, physical sciences, and advanced programme mathematics.
Gabriella said despite the academic year being challenging, doing drama and running helped her to remain sane during it all. "My family was very supportive and I don't think I would have survived the year without them." She plans to go to the University of Cape Town (UCT) to do business studies but she will first take a gap year to go and volunteer in Israel.
Shane Wiesz attended St David's Marist Inanda and attributed his good performance to working hard throughout the year and not only waiting for the final exams. His lowest mark was 94% and he obtained 100% for mathematics and physical science. His other subjects were accounting, Afrikaans, English, history, information technology and life orientation.
"I put in a lot of hard work," he said, explaining that he'd juggled his academics with sport as he was on the hockey team and played cricket. "I worked at the right speed and consistency throughout the year coupled with planning well in advance." He wants to pursue a degree in business science but isn't yet sure where he'll do it.
Inessa Rajah attended Durban Girls' College and celebrated her birthday on Thursday by giving herself the perfect gift of nine distinctions. Her success was down to finding a balance between books and a social life, showing that it was possible to manage the year without being anti-social. "I prioritised and tried to make sure that my work was done before I went out. It was a difficult year but it was also enjoyable," she said. Inessa intends studying mechatronics engineering at UCT.
Prajna Chowthee, also a pupil at Durban Girls' College, obtained nine distinctions. She expected good results given the amount of energy and work she put into her school work in 2016, although she wasn't sure just how good they would be. "One needs to have a very good support system and I had my parents. You also need to have that inner drive as well. When you have it, then you can achieve anything," said Prajna.
Michael Stephanou was the top achiever at Saheti in Johannesburg, with a full house of eight distinctions in English, History, life orientation, life sciences, mathematics, modern Greek, physical sciences and advanced programme mathematics. He achieved the highest average (93%) at Saheti. Michael said the preliminary exams gave him a good indication of how things would look like at the end of the year so he was prepared. "You have to aim high in life. During the prelims, I got distinctions in everything except applied mathematics but the end of the year exams were better than that."
Melanie Lesch from Dainfern College obtained eight distinctions in accounting, Afrikaans, English, life orientation, life sciences, mathematics, physical sciences and advanced programme mathematics. She is in the top 1% of learners for accounting, Afrikaans, English, life orientation and life sciences. Melanie enjoyed the exams and would not settle for anything less than distinctions; she's studying medicine next year.
Principals were delighted with the results and congratulated their pupils.
St David's headmaster Mike Thiel praised the class of 2016 and said the school was exceptionally proud of them. "They have upheld the values and ethos of their Marist heritage and their results are indicative of the conduct and character that they have displayed throughout their senior year. While we highlight the top achievers, we celebrate equally the results of each boy who has worked diligently to attain his goals, many despite challenges of an academic or personal nature," he said.
The acting head of Durban Girls' College Marianne Bailey said she was delighted with the performances of the pupils, whose hard work had paid off as her school obtained a 100% pass rate.
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