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'I was very stressed' - Matriculant used 300 past papers to secure top spot in KZN

08 January 2020 - 17:28 By Lwandile Bhengu
KwaZulu-Natal's top matric pupil Shweta Harilal received seven distinctions.
KwaZulu-Natal's top matric pupil Shweta Harilal received seven distinctions.
Image: Rajesh Jantilal

KwaZulu-Natal’s top matriculant worked through 300 past exam papers to secure her seven distinctions.

Shweta Harilal from Durban North College was among the top performers who were honoured by the provincial education department at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Wednesday.

Harilal told TimesLIVE the secret to her success was doing as many past papers as she could get her hands on.

The 18-year-old’s lowest mark was 90%.

“My parents bought me a whole lot of study guides and I used the internet a lot. I went through more than 300 past papers,” she said.

She now has her eyes set on studying medicine at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. “I have a passion for helping people and learning about the different ailments and chemicals,” she said.

Harilal said she realised she was the top pupil when she looked around and was the only person who hadn't been called in the Top 10.

“It feels surreal. I didn't expect this, I am so humbled. I was very stressed, especially after the long wait. I didn't know how things were going to turn out, but my mum encouraged me to have faith.”

Second in the province was Bhekamandaba Makhonza from Edendale Technical High School in Pietermaritzburg, who received eight distinctions.

The top performing pupil in Umgungundlovu district, Makhonza scored the highest physics mark in the province and the third-highest in the country.

He was invited to the National Senior Certificate Top Achievers award ceremony in Midrand, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

“I am very, very excited and happy. I am proud of myself because I have done my family and school proud ... even KwaZulu-Natal as well, because I represented them nationally,” he said.

Makhonza will be studying actuarial science at the University of Cape Town.

“To the matriculants doing matric this year, work hard from day one, do not rest, be consistent and work, work, work,” he said.

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu commended the class of 2019 for the improved pass rate, up from 76.2% in 2018 to 81.3% in 2019, at the provincial matric results announcement on Wednesday.

A total of 116,937 candidates sat for the final exams in the province.

The province also saw an increase in the number of bachelor passes, from 38,573 in 2018 to 44,189 in 2019, and an increase in the number of schools which had 100% pass rates.

It also registered three schools with a 0% pass rate.

Mshengu explained that one of the schools had only three pupils and another had 11, who opted to write half their subjects in 2019 and the other half this year.