UJ applauds 2017 first-year top achievers

​”It is such an honour and privilege to be a part of this celebration. Today is particularly special because we celebrate the top 4% of our first-year undergraduate class who have met one of the most difficult transitions from high school to university, and for some, from work life to university. This is an important landmark moment for you as it is in the life and calendar of the University. We celebrate your achievements and your remarkable contribution.”

This message from the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Ihron Rensburg inspired 370 first-year top achieving students at the University’s annual First-Year Top Achievers Ceremony on Wednesday, 20 September 2017.

This year produced the second highest number of first-year top achievers since the inception of UJ. The exceptional performance of the record number first-year students, having obtained an average of 75% or more in the June 2017 examinations, demonstrates the University’s commitment to support its first-time entering students from school-to-university transition and compliments the strategic direction of the institution.

Five degree students obtained an average of 90% plus. Mr Muhammad Hassen, who matriculated from Lenasia Secondary School, obtained an overall average of 92.3% and is studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Mr Keegan Hawkins received a more than admirable second place with an average of 92%. Mr Hawkins is studying a Bachelor of Accounting, and he matriculated from Marist Brothers College. Mr Thumbani Mokgwadi, who matriculated from Kgwaratlou High, achieved an average of 91.8% and Mr Jarred Orfao, who matriculated from St Catherine’s Dominican Convent, obtained an average of 90.8%. Both Mr Mokgwadi and Mr Orfao are studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Miss Cassi Gewer who is pursuing a qualification in Psychology achieved an average of 90%. She matriculated from King David School in Linksfield.

Three top diploma students obtained an average of 86% plus. Miss Zandile Shabalala, who matriculated from Johannesburg Secondary School, obtained an overall average of 88,2% and is studying a Diploma in Accountancy. Mr Sipho Madi, also studying towards a Diploma in Accountancy, achieved an average of 86.8%. He matriculated from Chiawelo Adult Centre. Miss Mariama Camara, received an average of 86.6%. She is pursuing a qualification in Financial Services (Operations) and is an international student.

Of the 370 top achievers, 215 were female and 155 men.

On her accomplishment, Miss Zandile Shabalala said, “It’s an honour to be the top achiever. I thank my parents for all their support. I would like to encourage matriculants to study smart and put in the effort into achieving their goals”.

Says Keegan Hawkins, “My aspiration was to obtain excellent academic results that would allow me to be recognised as a top achiever by UJ. UJ has assisted me in achieving my goal with support provided by lecturers and tutors as well as the other resources that have been available to me by UJ. Matriculants, use your interest and talents to achieve realistic goals.”

Cassi Gewer, top female degree achiever said, “I am very overwhelmed and humbled. UJ has given me a sense of South African identity. UJ values what they stand for and value students and I am proud to be part of this institution.”

Ashwin Van der Merwe (degree) said, “I am truly humbled and proud to be part of this institution. To matriculants, surround yourself with the right company, work hard and believe in preparation for exams and tests. I thank God and my sister for the support and the calmness to achieve”.

The College of Business and Economics produced 192 of these achievers, followed by the Faculty of Humanities with 57. The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment had 34 and the Faculty of Sciences, 20 top achievers. The Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture boast each 19 top achievers. The Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Law had 15 and 14 top achievers, respectively.

The University’s First Year Experience Programme (FYE), an initiative offering academic skills reinforcement with an accent on students mentoring fellow students is one of the support programmes that helps ease the school-to-university transition. Student tutors, selected from third-year level and up, do well academically, are good communicators and are able to identify with students’ needs, act as an interface between students and teaching staff. UJ also introduced academic advisors in UJ’s residences and approved off-campus accommodation facilities.

Zandile Shabalala
Miss Zandile Shabalala (top diploma student) with her award.


Vc Rensburg
UJ’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ihron Rensburg at the 2017 First-Year Top Achievers Ceremony.
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