While Grade 12 pupils were anxious about writing their preliminary examinations ahead of the finals last year, Antonio Aristides feared for the worst when his health took a turn for the worse.
The 19-year-old former SAHETI School pupil was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system while writing prelims.
He had to undergo chemotherapy, which continued throughout his finals.
But Aristides’ health proved no deterrent as he has been named a commendable achiever by the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) after bagging eight distinctions.
He is ranked within the top 5% of IEB candidates nationally in more than five subjects and has also been ranked within the top 1% for English, nationally.
Speaking to News24 on Monday, Aristides said, although there were downs, especially towards the end of the year, with the cancer diagnosis, he had vowed he would finish his matric no matter what challenges came his way.
He added he could not have done it without the support of his family, friends and SAHETI School, which is situated in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.
Studying while in chemo
The top achiever added that time management had played a “huge role” as he prepared for his finals, more than previously.
“In matric, you learn to work every day you can. I balanced everything. Whenever I felt well, I tried to put in as much as I could. So that when I was not feeling well, I was able to take a break.
“If I went for chemo, I would try to get some hours in [of studying], while sitting there. I was not going to waste that time.”
He added he was hoping to pursue studies in engineering, although he was not sure at which institution yet. But first, he wants to ensure that he is good health before making his decision.
Aristides said his last chemotherapy session was expected to be on January 17.
SAHETI School’s Class of 2019 received 242 distinctions, of which five pupils received distinctions in eight and nine subjects.
“One day, you could be so focused and motivated, and the next day, you lose it all, and you are anxious.
“Then you write one exam, it goes so well, and you think you on the right track, but then you write the next exam; and it doesn’t go well, you lose hope. Literally, it’s a rollercoaster ride. Cliched as it sounds,” he said.
Although Kapoutsis said he was confused with what was going to happen going forward, he was looking to study actuarial sciences either at the University of Cape Town or take a “leap-of-faith” and study in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The second highest achiever at the prestigious IEB school was 18-year-old Eleni Hajimarkos who bagged an average of 91% and nine distinctions. She has also been named a commendable achiever by the IEB.
Hajimarkos, who is looking to study medicine either at UCT, Wits or the University of Pretoria, said she had to neglect her sport to focus on her academics so she could meet the admission requirements to study it.
While preparing for the exams, she said her family and mother, who is a medical doctor, had played a huge role in assisting her. She said she never felt alone and shared notes with her fellow pupils.
“I am feeling good about the results,” she told News24 on Monday.
The 18-year-old went into exams hoping to obtain a full house of nine distinctions, adding she also achieved distinctions in all the subjects for her prelims.
Advising the class of 2020, Hajimarkos said: “Stay calm throughout matric and if you need help, ask. Carry on getting involved in sports as well as academic success.”
Congratulating the class of 2019, SAHETI School executive head, Warwick Taylor said: “I wholeheartedly congratulate our students on their exceptional achievements, which are among SAHETI’s best results to date.”
He said the matric class of 2019 upheld a culture of learning throughout their school career.
“They set goals and were inspired to enhance the school’s strong academic record. Bravo SAHETI!”