For the first time in its 23-year history, two pupils were declared joint winners of The Herald Continental Matric of the Year competition as judges could not decide on an outright winner.
While the two will be sharing the title, they will not be sharing the prizes, with the goodhearted sponsors all doubling up on their contributions to ensure that they each get exactly what they would have received if there had only been one winner.
The winning pair – Rebecca Mqamelo, 18, of Clarendon High School for Girls in East London, and Andre Conradie, 18, of Brandwag High School in Uitenhage – were chosen from 20 finalists at a gala event at The Athenaeum on Friday night.
It was hosted by The Herald and Continental Tyre SA.
The competition recognises the achievements of matric pupils who have excelled in sporting, cultural, leadership, academic and community outreach fields.
Rochante Coenraad, 17, of Humansdorp Senior Secondary School, bagged this year’s Scholarship Award, winning an undergraduate scholarship from NMMU.
Rochante was chosen for her hard work and dedication as deputy head prefect, captain of the school golf team, representing South Africa in karate internationally, church youth leader and for assisting with the donation of blankets to the needy in her community.
The winner in the Sports Achievement Category is Pearson High School’s Courtney Shaw, and the winner in the Community Involvement Category is Cwayita Kweyi, of Clarendon High School for Girls.
Andre also took the Academic Achievement Category award and Rebecca won the Cultural Achievement Category award.
The winners were selected from the cream of the Eastern Cape’s academic crop.
Rebecca, ranked second at the Argo International Debate Tournament in Romania last year and first in the World Schools Debating Championships in Germany, said: “I feel overwhelmed. I did not expect this. It was a tight competition.
“It was inspiring to see [on the video clips shown at the event] how hard the other [finalists] have worked.”
Andre, who turned 18 on Friday, had the audience in stitches when he revealed that he had failed his driver’s licence test that day, showing that even those who excel still have a lot to learn.
He represented Brandwag’s first teams in chess, cricket, tennis and golf, and achieved an A-aggregate from grades 4 to 12, winning the school’s Dux award from Grade 8 to Grade 11.
He is also a member of the school’s editorial board, as well as a member and cell leader of the Uniting Christian Students’ Association of South Africa and a cricket umpire for school games.
“I cannot take sole credit for this achievement since there are numerous people who have played major roles in my life and development,” he said.
“My parents, teachers and close friends have all played roles along the way.”
The prize sponsors include NMMU, Profiles Health Club, Proline Computers, the Beach Hotel, Fat Cats Caterers, Caltex, Waltons Stationers, SpecSavers, Vodacom, Walmer Park Shopping Centre and Van Schaik Bookstore.
Each of the finalists received a gift package of R2 700 and category award winners each received prizes totalling R6 500.
The Sport Category winner also received a R10 000 bursary from NMMU.
Rebecca and Andre each walked away with an undergraduate bursary from NMMU, floating trophies and R25 000 worth of advertising in The Herald for their schools.
Additional prizes to the value of R44 900 from the other sponsors were also presented to them.