Two Western Cape matrics awarded for excellent results in the face of enormous odds

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An awards ceremony was held on Thursday for top performing matric pupils.
An awards ceremony was held on Thursday for top performing matric pupils.
  • Two Western Cape pupils have received special ministerial awards for overcoming obstacles and achieving excellent matric results.
  • Luca Crouse, of Parklands College, completed his exams despite living with apraxia of speech - a speech sound disorder.
  • Shimé van den Bergh, from Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof, was diagnosed with bone cancer during her matric year.

Two Western Cape pupils received special ministerial awards for achieving excellent matric results, despite facing enormous obstacles.

At an awards ceremony on Thursday, Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier commended the two pupils for displaying “exceptional courage and determination”. 

One of the ministerial awards went to Shimé van den Bergh from Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof.

Van den Bergh had a very difficult matric year, in which she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

“Just after her June exams, severe pain in her leg resulted in an operation to remove a growth, and she had to wear a brace the full length of her leg. Unfortunately, the pain continued and worsened, and she underwent a second surgery to remove a growth. The operations involved transplanting the fibula in her calf into her thigh to replace the bone loss,” said Maynier.

“After a long hospital stay and recovery at home, and just three days before the start of the final exams, she received devastating news: she had bone cancer.”

Van den Bergh was told that she would not be able to write her final exams, but she decided to write them anyway – and scored seven distinctions with a 91.3% average.

READ | Underperforming schools on the decline - Western Cape Education MEC

“Her grade head says that she serves as an inspiration and role model to all people who, despite their limiting circumstances, rise above them and excel. I could not agree more,” said Maynier.

Van den Bergh said her exams had been "quite challenging."

"I was in a lot of pain while writing so I had to go to the hospital a few times during my finals. There were a few days where I thought that I would not be able to write but I pushed through and I'm so grateful to have made it," Van den Bergh said. 

She added that she was "shocked" that she was one of the top achievers in the province. 

Van den Bergh added:

I never expected something like that to happen. I was also very grateful and I would not have been able to achieve it without the school staff, my family and friends [who have been] supporting me.

The bubbly teen said she plans to take a gap year to focus on her health. She also plans to do a  few short courses to keep her busy. 

Van den Bergh said she plans to study medicine next year.

On leaving school, she said its a "bittersweet ending."

"We have all been waiting for this day to come and I am so glad that I have made it to where I am now but it is also quite sad to see the twelve years of school come to an end. Overall I am just excited to see what comes next," she said.

The other recipient of the ministerial award for a pupil who succeeded despite facing challenging circumstances was handed to Luca Crouse of Parklands College.

Van den Bergh was one of the top matric achievers in the Western Cape

When he was 5, Crouse was diagnosed with apraxia of speech, which is a speech-sound disorder that prevented him from communicating orally and requiring him to have a facilitator to stabilise his hand to write.

“Despite this, he has consistently flourished in a mainstream school, with high academic scores and a great talent for creative writing. His school was concerned that he might not be able to cope with the academic demands of a mainstream school when he moved on to high school,” said Maynier.

“They needn’t have worried – he continued to do well in high school, despite the challenge that the Covid-19 pandemic presented.”

During his matric exams, Crouse worked with a facilitator who stabilised his hand while he wrote in very large letters, sometimes only five to six words per page, which would then be transcribed for marking.

ALSO READ | ‘Don’t give up, even when you fail’: Young mom from Lavender Hill finally obtaining matric

“This resulted in him spending five to six hours in the exam venue at a time on some occasions. On days when he had an afternoon exam as well, he had no break between papers. His courage and commitment paid off: he achieved an average of 82% with four distinctions,” said Maynier.

He added that Crouse served as “an example to us all”.

Crouse had not responded to News24's request for comment at the time of publication.

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