A packed hall broke into applause when local pupil Bhekamandaba Makhonza was awarded for coming second in the province in matric. The Edendale Technical High School pupil was joined by Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High’s Layla Parak, who came joint fifth in the province. Their results were announced at a ceremony at Durban’s ICC on Wednesday. Bhekamandaba also topped the uMgungundlovu district with Layla just behind him in second place. It was a stellar year for Bhekamandaba, who bagged eight As and topped the district for Physics. He was also recognised for Physics in a national ceremony on Tuesday. “I expected to do well, but this exceeded all my expectations. I knew I would do well in Physics, but I did not anticipate doing well nationally,” an exuberant Bhekamandaba said. “I prepared for my exams by doing a lot of past papers. I started doing them between September and October in preparation for all my papers. “That was my biggest form of preparation for my finals.”He will study actuarial science at UCT. Layla followed in her sister Hannah’s footsteps after she had also finished in the top 10 in the province last year. Asked how she dominated in academics this year, she quipped, “It’s the genes. I feel overwhelmed and proud.” She will study civil engineering. Carter High’s Tarlin Padayachee, Maritzburg College’s Yusuf Akoo and Sauvira Jugath of Raisethorpe Secondary rounded up the top five. Tarlin, who got seven As said he still hadn’t yet processed his top performance in his mind. “It’s a lot of hard work and time management is really important.” He plans to study medicine. An excited Yusuf said he never expected to have done so well, adding that he was delighted to have made his family and school proud. Sauvira said: “I’m excited. I never thought I’d do so well. I’m happy to have made my school proud.”Nikita Padayachee (29), who is studying early child development at Phumelela, was awarded for achieving the highest English mark among adult pupils in the province. She also came 14th overall for adult pupils. An ecstatic Padayachee, who is going into her second year this year, said she had taken English merely as an elective but loves the subject. “I was really not expecting it,” she said. “It is my calling to work with children, especially those with disabilities,” she said. Durban North College’s Shweta Harilal came first in the province. The top 10 was mainly made up of Durban pupils, with Westville Girls’ High having two in the list.