From studying by candlelight to the pressure of living up to expectations, the matric class of 2013 beat the odds to go down in the history books.
They achieved a phenomenal 78.2 per cent pass rate, the highest post-1994.
Eighteen-year-old Siphesihle Sithole, from Soshanguve in Pretoria, was one of those who had reason to celebrate.
Sithole, who comes from a big family but disadvantaged family, had to study for his exams using a candle.
“I remember shortly after our June trial exams started, we didn’t have electricity at home and I had to complete the exams using a candle. I just had to adjust to using a candle to study at night but did most of my studying during the day,” he said.
Despite these struggles, Sithole’s results exceeded the expectations of even his mother.
The Makhosini Combined Secondary School learner was among the top 10 in the country.
Sithole’s mum, Delinah Mthombeni, had expected him to do well because he had always been a great performer but even so, she was surprised at his exceptional performance.
He achieved eight As in mathematics (98 per cent), physical science (99 per cent), life sciences (99 per cent), geography (96 per cent), mathematics paper three (93 per cent), life orientation (93 per cent), English (87 per cent) and isiZulu home language (81 per cent).
Sithole was the ranked the third-best pupil from disadvantaged schools across the country by the Department of Education. He is now studying chemical engineering at the University of Pretoria after receiving a bursary from the Sasol Inzalo Foundation.
Over in the Eastern Cape, good results were expected of Thembelihle Mdabula, who attended St James Senior Secondary School at Cofimvaba, and the 18-year-old did not disappoint.
She achieved seven distinctions, with an impressive 99 per cent for mathematics and 96 per cent for physical science.
Her father, Mzonhle Rodo, is a teacher and mom Nancy works at the provincial Department of Education.
“With both my parents being directly involved in education, it was expected that I had to work hard and achieve great results,” she said.
Mdabula, who lives in the small rural town of Cofimvaba, recently recieved a bursary from the Department of Public Works and is now studying megatronic engineering – a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town.
She said the secret to her success was hard work, which would not stop now as she strives to become a highly acclaimed engineer.