Number one pupil in the KwaZulu-Natal province, Cynthia Obono from Westville Girls' High School says she was able to excel in her studies in 2020 by making mental health a priority.
"I definitely found this year difficult on my mental state. Experiencing stress and anxiety throughout the year forced me to bring myself to centre and I found that meditating helped relieve me in times of stress," said Obono, who achieved seven distinctions to claim the number one spot in the province.
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Obono said that she had still not fully processed her achievement, explaining that it all felt overwhelming but that she was grateful for the end result.
Excited and anxious as she looks towards the future, Obono will he studying Economics and African Studies at Harvard University in America in August.
Not affiliated with any organisation, Obono said that she has no problem with and relishes being an advocate for mental health and advised all pupils to take it seriously when planning their studies.
Speaking on the difficulties that the year presented, Obono said that as an introvert she excelled by studying from home but said that she did miss the company of her friends.
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Father and professor Eyono Obono said that he and his wife were very proud of their daughter and what she has achieved under such extraordinary circumstances.
"We are proud of her and the educational system as a whole for pushing through such a difficult year. We know how dedicated our daughter is and how hard on herself she can be."
"She plans always and goes above and beyond what is expected, never happy unless she receives 100 percent," said professor Obono, adding that her quest for excellence had yielded the right results so far and that he knows he can expect a future laden in academic success for his daughter.