- Luhle-uthando Somana was Dale College's first pupil to test positive for Covid-19 in 2020.
- Somana's grandfather died the same year - but the pupil managed to achieve four distinctions.
- The King William's Town boarding school, famous for producing rugby players, attained a 95.6% pass rate.
Despite losing a grandfather and being Dale College's first pupil to test positive for Covid-19, Luhle-uthando Somana, 18, came out as the school's third top performer after garnering four distinctions.
Somana is one of a handful of pupils from the King William's Town school, who passed despite challenges presented by Covid-19.
Another pupil, Mihle Kunene, managed to attain a satisfactory set of results, with four Cs, despite losing his father to Covid-19.
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Thabo Bandla, 18, from King William's Town, managed to pull through, despite using a wheelchair to move around Dale College, where there are no wheelchair facilities. He scored one B and four Cs.
Dale deputy head prefect and provincial rugby player, Lwando Kolisa, was devastated when the rugby season was lost due to Covid-19.
The King William's Town school, famous for producing rugby players, attained a 95.6% pass rate - with a bachelor pass of 50.6% - which far outweighed previous years' results, despite challenges faced by pupils.
An emotional and proud Dale headmaster, Garth Shaw, said: "The story of 2020 is all about perseverance for me, and working with a goal in mind. I am strongly reminded of that when I am looking at these leaners... They humble me!"
Somana said: "Last year, I lost my grandfather, who was the closest person I ever had. Losing him was, and still is, the toughest moment in my life because during some nights, when I had to study, I couldn't because I had flashbacks of him. I couldn't even touch my books.
"In the midst of all that, I told myself that I was going to study hard and make sure that I make him proud. In conclusion, like the whole country, the Covid-19 pandemic also struck fear in most of us and made it difficult to study in some instances because of fearing to catch it and then falling sick, and you can't study nor write."
Somana is planning on furthering his studies at Wits University, where he hopes to study medicine.
Meanwhile, in Makhanda, despite the national matric pass rate average having gone down, a feisty Ntsika Secondary School - which has pupils from poor backgrounds - continues to punch above its weight.
It obtained an 84.6% pass rate in the 2020 matric exams. That's up by 5% from last year.
Of the 88 pupils who sat for the senior certificate exams, the school managed 46 bachelor passes - the highest in its history.
Headmaster of Ntsika, Madeleine Schoeman, said: "We are absolutely overjoyed."
She said everyone worked tirelessly to help the pupils.
Schoeman revealed the secret for her school's success: a mentorship programme run by Rhodes University, which is the initiative of Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela and dedicated teachers from Ntsika.
"Our staff worked throughout lockdown, our matrics had their WhatsApp pages, and they received a lot of material from the education department, which we passed on during lockdown."
To the west of Makhanda, Graeme College for Boys, managed to obtain a 97% pass rate.
The school's top four achievers got averages of over 80% and 19 distinctions among them.
Top of the class was Nicane September from Makhanda, who attained six distinctions, despite a turbulent year.
The 18-year-old September will be studying Mechanical Engineering at Stellenbosch University.
His advice to the current class: "Practice regularly and do not take any information for granted. Build a rapport with your teachers and they'll be more willing to help you in tougher times."
He explained how he achieved his feat: "I studied intensely until the concepts became common knowledge and I was able to teach my fellow classmates if they needed assistance. My teachers were a great help when there were things I could not understand."
Also in the top four was Manusizwe Jourdan, 18, who obtained five distinctions. He also hails from Makhanda.
He is planning to study a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Computer Science, at Rhodes University.
Jourdan said not having face-to-face time with teachers put increased pressure on himself and others.
Somila Ntsunguzi, 18, from Makhanda, achieved four distinctions and will be off to Cape Town to study a B Sc Eng in Mechanical Engineering at UCT.
He tied with Tinashe Gomo, 19, from Johannesburg, who also had four distinctions.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct information the headmaster provided regarding the cause of death of Somana's grandfather and Kolisa's position as prefect.