Heathfield High pupil Tanya Syce overcame anxiety attacks, sparked by being at school during the Covid-19 pandemic, to surprise her parents with stellar matric results.
The 18-year-old from Sheridan Park is one of the school’s top-ten matriculants, scoring a Bachelor’s pass and distinctions in life sciences and Afrikaans.
She says she is grateful to her parents for their support and to her teachers, who taught after school and on Saturdays to help pupils succeed.
“We are making history,” says Tanya, “because we are the first matriculants to make it through Covid, and if we could do this, we can do anything that comes our way.”
She says she struggled to suppress her fears of catching the virus when she returned to class in July.
“I didn’t go back until July when schools reopened. My first week back, I had headaches every day, and I think it was from wearing a mask. We couldn’t socialise, and we had to stay at our desk the whole time. It was all strange to me.”
When she started having chest pains, her mother took her to the doctor. “He said I suffer from anxiety, but that I must not worry too much and gave me medication, which helped,” says Tanya.
Her classmates formed groups to help each other, often communicating over WhatsApp with teachers, and they watched YouTube tutorials on their subjects.
“The friends on the group chat helped me a lot. The teachers also sacrificed their time after hours, and I don’t think they had a chance to take breaks.”
Tanya’s father, Ashley, is thrilled with her achievements. “I was impressed with the results during Covid,” he says. “I didn’t expect her to do so well and thought she would get a normal pass, but I am very proud of her.”
Tanya’s mother, Karin, an occupational therapist at an old-age home, feared taking the virus home to her family. “I was worried because I am an essential worker and had to work,” she says.
She encouraged Tanya to sanitise, wear a mask and keep her distance from others. She was also there for Tanya during study sessions that dragged on into the early hours of morning.
Karin says that as a school-governing body member she saw just how hard the teachers worked throughout a demanding year.
“The principal, Wesley Neumann, is a good role model for our children, and I would recommend Heathfield High,” she says.
Mr Neumann says the class of 2020’s achievements in a tough year are “testimony to their dedication, commitment, perseverance, resilience and tenacity to uphold the proud Heathfield High School’s ethos of excellence”.
He describes Tanya as a “hard working and committed” pupil who was involved in music and drama at the school and also served on its representative council of learners and governing body.
“The world is her oyster and we have full confidence in her abilities to achieve all the success.”
Tanya has chosen to study Medical Lab Science at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.