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Hard-knocks are a great teacher



Torah Academy Boys High School student, Eli Zlotnick, began matric in 2021 feeling as if he couldn’t take any more life blows. However, he managed to overcome his stumbling blocks and end the year with his head held high.

“The hurt I felt will make me never forget the extremely valuable lessons I learned,” he says.

He started 2021 with a negative mindset, which, he says, “wasn’t to set high goals”.

“I had low expectations due to my shocking Grade 11 marks as well as failing my learner’s licence. I had quite a few family issues too, and was missing my siblings tremendously. I blamed all of my failures on my ADD/ADHD [Attention Deficit Disorder] and severe anxiety. I lost a few friends, but my bonds with true friends became even tighter,” he says.

His marks improved significantly after the first term. “So, I reset my goals and was more determined,” says Zlotnick. “My second-term marks weren’t great, but my prelim marks were even worse. I was rejected by the gap-year programme I wanted to go on. I was considering dropping out, but realised that I had come too far.”

He persevered, finding an even better gap-year programme. “I started baking for my family, and studied hard for finals with the help of a tutor, and I had multiple epiphanies,” he says. “My family and I are much more relaxed [now]. The experience really helped me learn a lot of life lessons.”

Zlotnick’s fellow Torah Academy student, Gavi Shaw, took his matric year as it came, and had what he describes as “a kind-of chilled year”.

Gavi Shaw

“At the end of the day, stressing doesn’t actually help your marks,” he says. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, regardless. My passion isn’t school. I really didn’t want to have the attitude last year of doing it for a piece of paper, for the marks. Not that I want to do badly, but I wanted to finish what I had started as I had got so far.”

Shaw, who says his marks were fine throughout matric, began school last year with one or two weeks online because of the bad surge in COVID-19 cases in January 2021. “Other than that, we wrote a few prelim exams online, but they were focused on keeping us at school, so we mostly went into school every day,” he says.

In spite of the pandemic, Zlotnick felt safe at school because the teachers, principal, and staff cared about him and his success. “You can’t spell principal without ‘pal’,” he jokes.

COVID-19 also helped Zlotnick to learn some unforgettable life lessons. “Unfortunately, I learned these lessons the hard way, there was a lot of pain and tears, but I guess they happened for the best because I was able to push through and succeed.”

Pre-COVID-19, Shaw was actively involved in sports, playing cricket, and soccer. In addition, he was the leader of the Friendship Circle, and the head of first aid for the nursery school, primary school, and boy’s high school. “I ran first aid for about a year and a half, and I handed the reins to another boy last year,” he says.

Shaw is heading to New York to study in a yeshiva this year after the travel ban scuppered his chance of going there in December last year.

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