Durban - Despite sometimes having to walk 30 minutes in the dark on her way home from night classes at her school, Snothile Jacinta Mahlinza managed to bag six distinctions.The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education awarded the 17-year-old matriculant, from Prince Mnyayiza High School in the rural Zululand district, northern KZN, for being a top female pupil in maths and physical science, despite her adversity."Sometimes I did face challenges, like walking back home about 30 minutes from school at night when we had night classes. I was so scared of being raped, being killed or being kidnapped but, despite all those challenges, I continued studying and working hard because I knew that I wanted to achieve the best results," Mahlinza told News24 at the awards ceremony, which was held at the ICC in Durban.She said Nongoma, where she lives, was experiencing a wave of crime.Mahlinza said she had always dreamt of being called in front of other pupils from around the province because she believed she was one of the best pupils."I believe that dream has come true today (Friday). I got six distinctions, through my hard work, the hard work of my teachers and my mother, who always pushed me to work hard to achieve my dreams," she said.Mahlinza, who lives with her family of 10, including her mother, siblings, cousins and aunt, said her family only survived on her aunt's salary.She said the aunt works at the Zululand Municipality.She wants to pursue studies in medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.She advised the upcoming matric class of 201, who come from backgrounds similar to hers, to always believe in themselves."They should always believe in themselves and believe that they can be the best, despite whatever situation they are faced with. They should focus on their books because books carry a lot of knowledge and information."She added that everything that matriculants are tested on during the final exams "comes from the same books that are provided by the department (of education) at school"."They should not take books for granted because they're the greatest weapon to fight poverty," she advised.