South Africa


Meet some of the matrics who stood out from the pack

Matrics from Gauteng schools were awarded for being top students in their categories in Randburg on 7 January 2020. (Photo: Chanel Retief)

There was much to celebrate when Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced a record 81.3% pass for the class of 2019. Included in Tuesday’s jubilations was the awarding of the country’s top-performing pupils. Daily Maverick caught up with three of the learners to share their journeys of hard work and resilience.

Madelein Dippenaar was awarded South Africa’s overall top-student accolade for the class of 2019 with an average pass mark of 96.9%all this while following what she called a “simple” study routine.

Speaking to Daily Maverick before the announcement of the results on Tuesday, 7 January and without the slightest knowledge that she would be named South Africa’s top-performing learner for the class of 2019, Dippenaar said she followed a study routine that allowed her to prioritise both her academic and social life.

Madelein Dippenaar from Paarl Gymnasium High School in Western Cape says a mixture of hard work and play are behind her achievement of being listed among the top matric achievers. The national top performers were invited to a breakfast hosted by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Tuesday 07 January 2020 in Midrand. (Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa)

I can’t think of any specific sacrifices I had to make. I just had to manage my time extremely well; balancing both academics and extracurricular activities. I still found time to go on a coffee date with my room mate,” she said.

You still have to make time for those because I feel that it plays an important part, just winding down and talking to somebody and not so focused all the time,” she added.

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Dippenaar attended Paarl Gymnasium High in Western Capea Quintile five school known for its extensive sports programme. Her subjects ranged from technical drawing, mathematics, and arts.

Public schools are categorised according to their allocation of financial resources. Quintile one represents the poorest of schools while Quintile five represents the least poor. Quintile one to three schools are no-fee paying, and Quintile four to five are fee-paying.

The Paarl student said she initially declined a phone call from the Department of Education, which aimed to deliver the news that she had been invited to the ministerial breakfast as one of the top achievers.

I was watching television, and it was quite late. I was on the phone with one of my friends when a strange number phoned and I declined the call because it was late.

They called again and I answered but I was too nervous so I gave the phone to my mother who organised everything,” she said.

Following Tuesday’s award ceremony, Daily Maverick contacted an excited Dippenaar who shared her results.

She obtained astounding marks in all of her subjects, scoring 99% for English Home Language, 92% for Afrikaans Home Language, 96% in Mathematics, 97% for Life Orientation, 98% in Engineering, Graphics and Design, 94% for Life Sciences, and 98% in Physical Sciences.

She also took two additional subjects in German and Visual Arts for which she scored 91% and 98% respectively.

Dippenaar said because she grew up on a farm she has always been fascinated by biology and that has inspired her to pursue her studies in BSc Molecular Biology and Technology at the University of Stellenbosch.

I know I want to go into the biological field and do microbiology. I don’t know if I want to work with plants or people yet. That’s the main thing I need to distinguish this year,” she said.

Manwadu Tshilidzi from Mbilwi Secondarya school in Limpopo known for achieving the best results in the province annuallycame out third as the best-performing learner from a Quintile four school. She told Daily Maverick that the death of her father in 2017 was her driving force.

My dad inspired me a lot, his death made me realise that I had to honour his legacy and work harder than I already did.

He always encouraged me and assured me that whatever I set my mind to, can be achievedbig or small,” she said.

Manwadu Tshilidzi from Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo poses with her mother Manwadu Nthuseni Tshilidzi at the 2020 top achiever’s breakfast hosted by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Tuesday 07 January 2020 at Vodacom World in Midrand, Gauteng. (Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa)

Tshilidzi attributed her success to her belief in God and prayer.

The first thing I did every morning was to pray. I believe that God is the one that gives us the grace to do what we do. So I commit all my activities to him,” she said.

I practised mathematics every day because it’s broad and you won’t find the same questions in the examinations. S0 the trick is to find out what kind of questions are there.

But I knew I had to focus more of my time on subjects that gave me a tough time and see how I could overcome them,” she said.

Tshilidzi obtained a 100% pass mark in Physical Sciences and Life Sciences, 91% for Tshivenda Home Language, 91% for English First Additional Language, 94% for Geography, and 94% in Mathematics.

She advised that learners should not undermine languages and must be studied with the same vigor as would be the case with mathematics and science.

Tshilidzi said she will be enrolling with the University of Cape Town to study medicine, however, she has no bursary offer yet since all her applications were rejected.

I’m thinking that maybe this is an opportunity for one organisation to just pop-up and just help me,” she said.

The overall top-performing student in Physical science, Enrique Hlatshwayo-Mentor’s road to his achievement began in Grade 11, he told Daily Maverick.

What helped me a lot is early preparation. I started preparing for my matric in 2018 when I was doing grade 11. My intention was to cover much of the syllabus so that the following year I could relax.”

Enrique Hlatshwayo-Mentor from Nellmapius Secondary School in Gauteng was named one of the top-performing matric pupils nationally.. (Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa)

A shy Hlatshwayo-Mentor attended Nellmapius Secondary, a Quintile two school in Mamelodi, Gauteng.

Even though Hlatshwayo-Mentor was not comfortable with revealing all his marks, he was happy to share his 91% overall average mark.

But I also acquired immense assistance from a programme called Kutlwanong centre for Mathematics, Science, and Technology. The content that they gave me was not conventional,” he said.

Despite his strong knack for science, Hlatshwayo-Mentor said language subjects were his biggest hurdle.

Language subjects challenged me a lot, but I fought. I made my language subject teachers my friends. And they were very supportive,” he said.

Hlatshwayo-Mentor will pursue a career in chartered accounting at the University of Pretoria. DM


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