In any given week, Lohini Naidoo could dream up a robot to fix the environment, debate herself out of a corner, kickbox an attacker into next week, launch into a rendition of the latest K-Pop hit (with a lecture in Korean cinema for the encore), before kicking back at a school social and getting a good night’s sleep.
She doesn’t sound like the kind of teenager who has time for academics, but the 18-year-old matric pupil from Elkanah House High School in Cape Town found out on Thursday that she had achieved eight distinctions.
Speaking to News24 on Thursday, Naidoo said she was expecting to do well, but “not so well that I’d have interviews!”
Naidoo was hoping for six As, and for high marks in maths and physics. She was “very surprised” to find out on Thursday that she’d exceeded her expectations by another two distinctions. She plans to study mechatronics at UCT next year, in a field of mechanics and engineering so complex, even Naidoo battles to explain what it entails in layman’s terms.
She wants to use her degree to “make the future a lot more sustainable”, by reducing humanity’s footprints on the environment.
While she has always been strong academically, coming from a family in which academic achievement is prized, it was the emotional stability brought by her family and teachers that Naidoo says was behind her success.
“Our teachers are empathetic, passionate and inspiring teachers. I’m not just a number in the classroom,” she told News24. At home, her family was there to lend an ear whenever she needed to offload during the stressful year.
A healthy lifestyle also helped her achieve.
With the workload in matric having just about doubled from Grade 11, Naidoo said she’d often end up going home late, after staying at school studying or attending tutorials. She was struggling to concentrate, but realised that being physically fit – kickboxing, specifically – helped her stay focused.
While many of her peers turned to energy drinks and coffee to stay awake during late night study sessions, Naidoo drank lots of water, ate healthy foods, and made sure she got into bed at a decent hour. Naidoo says she strove for balance, allowing herself some downtime at school socials, a few parties (but no clubbing), and going out to dinner or for long drives with the family.
– See our Matric Results page.
Back at her desk, she watched Korean pop music videos, better known as K-pop, whenever she needed a break from her books.
But no amount of music, exercise or sleep would have helped if she did not have the emotional support she needed. Naidoo says it is the critical factor in her doing so well.
“Emotional support is the most important thing. Commitment is important, but ultimately it’s about finding a balance.”
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