Eight distinctions: Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, German Second Additional Language, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Music, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics
Andy featured in the IEB Outstanding Achievements list, achieving within the top 5% in six or more subjects, including a distinction for Life Orientation and also featured in the top 1% of candidates per subject for English, Life Orientation, Music and Physical Sciences
Andi Qu, says being in matric in 2020 was tough. “On top of all the work, there was the Covid-19 pandemic that meant we all had to adapt really quickly to a strange and unfamiliar situation. Our teachers were fantastic, though, and we got great support in the online learning environment. St John’s handled final exams really well, too. The exam set-up was seamless, and didn’t add to the stress.”
Andi is presently doing a software development internship in Johannesburg but leaves in September to pursue his Computer Science studies in either Singapore, the United States or the United Kingdom.
Andi was a Maths tutor for matric students at the St John’s Academy (an after-school enrichment programme for boys from disadvantaged backgrounds who attend schools in communities close to the College). He represented South Africa in the 2020 Mathematics, Computer Science and English Olympiads, winning both the Maths and Computer Science events and achieving a top 10 spot in the English Olympiad.
He’s a keen chorister and has been singing in the St John’s choir since he first arrived at the College as a boy of 10. He also plays the piano, flute and clarinet. He loves Vivaldi’s Gloria and remembers the 2017 St John’s College choir performance of Gloria that was, he says, one of the highlights of his years at school.
His advice to young people starting secondary school this year is to make the most of all the school offers: “No matter if it’s sport, culture or social opportunities, get involved as much as possible. These activities all broaden your horizons and enrich your formative years.”
Nine distinctions: English Home Language, French Second Additional Language, History, IsiZulu First Additional Language, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Advanced Programme English and Advanced Programme Mathematics
Kei Prior featured in the IEB Commendable Achievements list achieving within the top 5% in five subjects, including a distinction for Life Orientation and top 1% of candidates per subject for History, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
Kei Prior says the Covid-19 remote learning situation suited him to a T. “I enjoyed the freedom of being able to decide my own hours. I’m a bit of a night owl, and it was great to be able to study late into the night, without worrying about having to be up early in the morning,” he says.
Besides returning an excellent set of matric results, Kei was also a first-team basketball player, is a keen fisherman and an avid birder.
He loves chemistry and heads off to Wits University in a few weeks to start a degree in Chemical Engineering. His ultimate goal is to build a career in water treatment and use his love of all things science to make a palpable and positive difference in the lives of many South Africans.
Kei admits he was a bit of a late bloomer. “I spent my first few years at St John’s just cruising, and not really applying myself. But my teachers motivated me to try harder. They encouraged me to do better because they knew I could. I found myself really knuckling down and enjoying academics. I went into the final exams feeling positive, prepared and empowered. I know I’ve done the best I was able to. And that feels good.”
Kei’s advice to youngsters starting senior school is to take full advantage of all these years have to offer. “Do as much as you can, and do the best you can. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and you’re letting down all the people who are invested in you. And have fun, too. Fun’s important. It releases the pressure,” he says.
Eight distinctions (Afrikaans First Additional Language, Dramatic Arts, English Home Language, History, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Gustav featured in the IEB Commendable Achievements list achieving within the top 5% in five subjects, including a distinction for Life Orientation and top 1% of candidates per subject in Afrikaans First Additional Language and Dramatic Arts.
Gustav Kruger ascribes his great results to his ability to adapt to change: a skill that was invaluable during remote learning conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’ve spent much of my high-school years pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and embracing new and different ways of experiencing the world. Covid was really just another adaptation for me.
“I felt good when I walked out of my last exam. I knew I had done my very best. It was a bittersweet moment, though. I’m going to miss school, my friends and my teachers. But the next chapter awaits.”
Gustav has his sights set on a career in actuarial science and heads off soon to Stellenbosch University to begin a degree in this field. “I was raised in Stellenbosch, so it’s going to be like going home. Also, the res culture there is suited to melding academics with sport and culture activities. I’m looking forward to it immensely.”
Gustav is a keen actor and director, and an ace tennis player. He also enjoys chess and golf, and he’s a licensed scuba diver.
Acting, he says, helped him overcome his natural shyness. “I’m really grateful to St John’s for giving me the opportunity to get out of my shell and onto the stage. It’s been good for my confidence and has given me valuable public speaking skills.
“My advice to people just starting high school is to take advantage of all the opportunities you get. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s in trying new things that you grow character and find out who you really are.”
Nine distinctions (Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, Geography, History, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Advanced Programme English and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Taylor featured in the IEB Commendable Achievements list achieving within the top 5% in five subjects, including a distinction for Life Orientation and the top 1% of candidates per subject in English, Geography and History.
Taylor Williamson heads off to Stellenbosch University soon to study Mechanical Engineering.
“I felt pretty confident that I’d done well,” he says. “I went in well-prepared, and I made sure all year long that I was on top of everything and worked ahead in Advanced Maths and Advanced English. I think this definitely made things easier on me when it was time to write finals.”
Support from the St John’s teachers and his family helped a great deal, too, he says. “COVID-19 made it difficult for everybody. But I had a wonderful support network and I’m grateful to everybody who was there for me.”
Taylor was a prefect at St John’s and headed up the academic and environmental portfolios. He sang in the choir and played basketball, hockey and first-team squash.
His advice to youngsters entering high school is to relax and enjoy the first two years. “The pressure’s off in Grades 8 and 9. But it starts piling up when you get to Grade 10. Use those first two years to do as much as possible outside the classroom. Make friends who will see you through the tough times, and be there for them, too. This is a great time in your life. Make the most of it.”
Seven distinctions (English Home Language, Geography, History, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Cameron featured in the top 1% of candidates per subject in English.
Cameron Quiding thanks his incredibly supportive family and great teachers for helping him ace matric.
“My approach was to set up a study schedule, and I stuck to it. My family was really great, giving me all the support I needed and encouraging me all the way. I gave myself at least two days – sometimes three – to study for each subject and I felt well-prepared going into the final exams.”
Cameron’s headed to UCT this year to do a PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) degree. “The PPE encompasses all I’m good at and it covers a wide range of subject matter. Plus, UCT will be a completely different environment to what I’m accustomed to. I’m really looking forward to starting university.”
He’s a keen sportsman and played rugby, soccer and basketball at St John’s. Also, Cameron comes from what he calls “a reading family” and he, like his parents and two sisters, loves nothing more than settling down with a good book. He’s a movie fan, too, and especially enjoys movies from the 1990s and 2000s.
“I’m going to miss St John’s,” he says. “But I’ve made some really good friends. They will be friends for life, and we’ll always have school in common.”
Nine distinctions: (English Home Language, German Second Additional Language, IsiZulu First Additional Language, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Advanced Programme English and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Greg featured in the top 1% of candidates per subject in English.
Greg Thompson was confident of doing well in the final matric exams.
“I’ve always been a hard worker,” he says. “I’m not one of those natural geniuses and I have to put in the work to do well. I took academics really seriously. I put a strict routine in place for myself, and I set goals that I worked hard to achieve. Whatever transpires, I am confident that I did the very best I could.”
This is his advice to youngsters starting their secondary-school journey: “Set a goal and work towards it. But take advantage of all the opportunities that you’re offered. You will emerge a different person at the end of it.”
Greg has ambitions of being a specialist microbiologist. He’s applied to the University of Pretoria to study microbiology there and says that once he starts his degree, he’s in it for the long haul. “I want to go all the way to PhD level, specialising in virology and researching vaccines that put a stop to the scourge of viruses such as the coronavirus presently wreaking havoc across the planet.”
He’s a keen musician, playing the French horn and bass guitar. And he’s a medium- to long-distance runner, too.
“I loved my years at St John’s,” he says. “The school offers so many opportunities. I went on a scholarship exchange to Germany which was an amazing experience that helped me understand so much of what the world offers beyond the confines of what we’re accustomed to.”
Joshua van Zyl
Eight distinctions: Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, German Second Additional Language, History, Information Technology, Life Orientation, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
Joshua van Zyl has his sights set on a career in actuarial sciences and heads off to Stellenbosch University soon to begin his studies.
Joshua was first-team tennis captain at St John’s. “I started playing when I was around five years old,” he says. He also plays hockey, golf, chess and the clarinet.
“I’m happy with my results. I was quite nervous about them because one never really knows for sure how one did. But I went into the finals well prepared. I had great support from my family and teachers.”
Being a scholar at St John’s is a priceless opportunity, he says. “There’s so much the school offers. I learned much there about who I am, what I enjoy and what my strengths are. I also made very, very good friends at St John’s. These are friends for life. I’m sorry to say goodbye to school and I’m grateful to everyone who made it possible for me to go to school there.”
Nine distinctions (Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, Geography, History, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Zaid Essop wants to put his brilliant matric results to good use by studying medicine.
It’s his dream to be a trauma or cardiothoracic surgeon. Zaid comes from a family of doctors. Both his dad and mom and one of his sisters are doctors. “It’s demanding, but incredibly rewarding work. And it’s the perfect career for someone like me who can’t sit behind a desk all day long. Medicine is a physical, active career. Plus, it’s a service-orientated job. I want to help others. Medicine will allow me to do that.”
Zaid says his mom, Kay, inspires him. “She’s been incredibly supportive. Honestly, she’s superwoman. She’s my doctor, chef, taxi driver and counsellor. She’s been pushy at times, but always with my best interests at heart. I could not have done this without her.”
Zaid played first-team cricket at St John’s and it was there, on the cricket field, that he formed some of his closest friendships. “My friends are very valuable to me. I realise now that hanging out, chatting to them next to the field, were some of my best moments at school.”
He’s a huge admirer of former South African international player Hashim Amla, who is the one cricketer he would love to meet and spend time with. “He’s a brilliant player,” Zaid says, “plus, he’s a great ambassador for Islam in sport. Quiet, modest and incredibly talented.”
Eight distinctions (Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, Geography, Information Technology, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Sven featured in the top 1% of candidates per subject in Information Technology.
Sven Solot spent much of his December and January holiday working on a cattle farm in the Drakensberg.
“It was incredibly hard work,” he says. “A few friends and I were offered a holiday job there, taking care of the cows. It was fun but exhausting!”
Sven has decided to do an engineering degree (specialising in mechatronics) at UCT this year. “It’s a multidisciplinary field of study that combines mechanical and electronic engineering,” he says, “and it appeals to everything I’m interested in.”
He says he felt a great sense of relief when he’d written his last exam. “I felt pretty confident that I’d done well. The prelims went very well for me, and I’d kept ahead throughout the year. I really struggle to sit behind a desk for any length of time, so much of my revision involved phoning friends and going over class notes with them.”
Sven is a Gauteng rower and trialled last year for the World Rowing Championships. He also played rugby and was head of Thomson House. “It was a busy year. Sometimes I just ran out of time to do everything I needed to do, so I learned to prioritise. This worked well for me.”
It’s important, he says, to discover early on in secondary school what you most enjoy, and then have fun doing those things. “It’s all about balance and having fun without neglecting the things that really matter.”
Seven distinctions (Dramatic Arts, English Home Language, Information Technology, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Advanced Programme Mathematics)
Joshua Falkov ascribes his great results to working as smart as he worked hard.
He says time management was a skill he needed as his favourite sport – rowing – was demanding of his time throughout his school career. “We’d practise at dams far outside of Johannesburg and the travel there and back was very time-consuming. I’d be up at around four every morning and only get home after seven. Studying was always a priority, though, so I had to be very disciplined with myself on making time for academics.”
His teachers at St John’s were enormously supportive and encouraging, he says. “St John’s has a culture that makes academic excellence cool. There’s nothing nerdy or geeky about being a good student at St John’s. Just the opposite, in fact. It’s a great environment and I went into the final exams confident that I would do well.”
Joshua heads off to Wits University soon to study actuarial sciences. “I’ve always enjoyed Maths, stats and reading the stories that data tells. This is a career where I can do every day what I enjoy doing. I’m sad to be leaving St John’s, but I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given there.”
Six distinctions: Afrikaans First Additional Language, Geography, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
Alex Schlapobersky admits that he spent the first few years of high school doing only what he needed to get by, and achieving very average results for his lacklustre efforts.
“Then I realised that it was my dream to be a doctor, and I knew I had to reach down deep and start applying myself. I started pushing myself, and I did not give up. I was relentless.”
This dream, he says, is what it took to go from a C average to returning fantastic matric results just two years later.
So determined is Alex to be a medical doctor that he’s applied to every medical school in South Africa, and to a few abroad, too.
His advice to youngsters entering high school this year is to buckle down from the start, work hard and work consistently. “It makes it so much easier when you walk into the final exams,” he says.
Alex was head of the first aid team at St John’s and achieved academic colours. He is a keen gardener and scuba diver. He has master scuba diver accreditation.
“I will always be grateful to St John’s for giving me the space and the opportunity to find out who I am and to be an independent spirit,” he says.
Seven distinctions: Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, History, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
Leo Fridjhon says he was hoping for seven distinctions but would have been happy with six.
He attributes his matric success to hard work – “it seems like I revised by going over millions and millions of past exam papers” – and to his incredibly supportive group of St John’s friends. “I surrounded myself with the right people,” Leo says. “We supported each other all the way through.”
He also gives credit to his amazing St John’s teachers who, he says, made lessons fun, and to a supportive family that gave him all the time and space he needed to prepare for final exams.
Leo has the distinction of being the youngest South African to grade to Purple in kung fu; he was 18 at the time. He was a member of the South African squad that trained in Taiwan in 2019. As part of that tour, the team competed in a number of kung fu forms, and the South Africans won three of the five categories.
Leo is not sure yet where his future lies. “I’m keen on medicine and economics,” he says. He’s applied to a number of tertiary institutions, both at home and abroad, and will make a decision on what to do once he sees which of these applications have been successful.
Six distinctions: Afrikaans First Additional Language, English Home Language, Geography, History, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
Declan Kirsch says he’s grateful to the dedicated and “incredibly caring” teachers at St John’s for making his secondary school the best years of his life.
“Finishing my last exam was very emotional for me. I was beyond excited because it meant school was over for good, and I could get on with the rest of my life. But I also knew that I would never see some of the people in that hall again. It all hit home at once. It was an indescribable feeling.”
He’s headed off to Stellenbosch University soon to start a BCom degree in international business. An internship abroad is part of that curriculum. Declan plans to do his internship in the United Kingdom, and then to stay on to complete postgraduate studies there.
“When I look back at these last five years, I’m glad I embraced it all and made the most of what the school offered.”