Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition


Featured Item

“He who laughs last” – the outsiders who aced it

Avatar photo



Gina Shankman was always afraid she would never matriculate, and Ilan Hodes was ridiculed at school, but they both overcame these setbacks at King David High School Linksfield (KDHSL) to matriculate last year.

“King David does have a high standard, a 100% pass rate, and I wasn’t the strongest kid academically,” Shankman says, describing her fears. “I would have to work a lot harder than others.”

Going into matric, Shankman felt as if there was no escape. “It was the last push. I literally gave those last few months of school my all. I gave all my free time to extra lessons, past papers, and so on.” She was motivated to prove wrong everyone who had ever doubted her.

Shankman struggled with maths in particular in primary school. “I constantly heard, ‘When are you going to get this right, yada yada.’ It stuck with me until matric, so not only was I struggling to keep on top of my grades, I also had to keep fighting those voices in the background. That was a whole other battle on its own.

“Primary school is a tough time because that’s when things start to sink in. As I grew up, I started to push aside the comments, and would stand up for myself.”

During his primary school days, Hodes was ridiculed before moving to Bellavista ahead of Grade 6. “There were some students who called me ‘retarded and stupid’, and there was constant judgement for going to a remedial school,” he recalls. “If only they knew the wonders that Bellavista has done, as it served as my platform for the rest of my high school career.”

He says moving to KDHSL ahead of Grade 9 “was the best move I could have made”. Not only did he matriculate last year with four distinctions, “At Linksfield, I played soccer and basketball, did debating for a little while, and was awarded two trophies at the valedictory ceremony last year.”

The first trophy was for an “exemplary improvement in attitude towards school life”.

Hodes says his attitude towards school improved in Grade 10 when he had time to reflect during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I realised that there needed to be a change in my attitude and that I needed to take school seriously if I wanted to be successful in life. I was lucky enough to have a great support system which unconditionally supported and believed in me – my parents, my siblings, and most importantly, my tutor, Simone Judin. I could never have done it without them.”

The other trophy he bagged was for “exceptional progress in English”. His average in the subject improved from 28% at the end of Grade 8 to 70% in prelims last year.

He puts it down to his parents “pushing me to work on it regularly. Mr [Craig] Adamson, my Grade 9 English teacher, instantaneously had a positive impact on me and became one of my role models. Additionally, I was privileged to have one of the best English teachers, Mrs [Justine] Sandler. She built on the foundation that Mr Adamson had put in place.”

Hodes and Shankman thank KDHSL Principal Lorraine Srage for her support. “Mrs Srage always knew I was going to matriculate,” Shankman says, adding that Mrs Helene Parfett was always there for her.

Shankman says matric challenged her academically, mentally, and socially.

“I missed out on the social part. It was a year of big milestones such as 18th birthday parties.” Shankman says, pointing out that she was one of the handful of matrics in her grade not invited to these parties because she didn’t conform to the typical King Davidian.

“I was different, and I’m okay with that. That’s why I took a gap year – to find people like me. A lot of people didn’t get my humour. They didn’t really understand my style. It resulted in them not wanting to get to know me better. King David is cliquey, but it’s made me who I am today. You must go with people who [understand] your vibe.

“I used the time to work harder. I built a mindset that matric was the last stretch and then I would be free to meet people more like myself,” she says, pointing out that it helped to make her more strong willed.

Shankman says having her family by her side was the best support system she could have asked for, while horse riding allowed her to disconnect from reality. “It calmed me down,” says this competitive horse rider who represented KDHSL in the South African National Equestrian Schools Association and placed second in a national competition.

This year, Shankman is taking a gap year in Tel Aviv, and doing an internship with a Magen David Adom ambulance service, while Hodes will either be going to the University of Cape Town or Reichman University in Herzliya.

Hodes’ advice to students who struggle or don’t enjoy school is, “You can do anything if you set your mind to it. Even if you are ridiculed along the way, as I was, remember, ‘He who laughs last, laughs longest’.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *