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Top matriculant comes to UKZN

Achieving 100% for core maths in matric and 99% for AP maths is not something that happens every day. Scoring an overall matric aggregate of 96.71% is not too shabby. Achieving nine As is impressive. And being placed first in KZN (and second in SA) for the 2019 NSC matric exams is an honour reserved for one person only.

That person is Aaron Naidu, who, having made Eden College - his alma mater and top-ranked NSC school - proud, has now registered at UKZN for a BSc degree majoring in data science.

Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Delia North, is delighted.

"I have deliberately worked to attract a core group of top performers to UKZN and to data science in particular," said North. "The VC of UCT phoned Aaron to try and persuade him to go there, so I am overjoyed that he has decided to come study with us. We have excellent staff who will support and extend him all the way."

Naidu is no stranger to UKZN, as he has been a member of the Siyanqoba Mathematics Extension Programme since 2014. This project, which is run under the auspices of Emeritus Professor Poobhalan Pillay, provides extension and training to top mathematical performers competing in the South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO). In 2019, Naidu not only won the SAMO for a record third time - beating 90 000 pupils from across the county - but also won the Tertiary Mathematics Olympiad, where he beat all competing university students, even though he was still at high school. He has also represented South Africa at the International Mathematics Olympiad, where he received a Bronze medal.

Naidu said he loves maths not only because he is good at it, but also because it is the foundation for so many different fields. He attributed part of his success to his grandmother. "When I was young, my grandmother, who was a retired primary school teacher, taught me multiplication tables, basic addition and subtraction. By the time I got to school, I was already proficient," he said. In 2019, Naidu was also the silver medallist in both the Computer Programming and Physics Olympiads.

Naidu praised his parents for being emotionally supportive and for guiding him, and also for encouraging him to follow his passion by studying mathematics. "They were also willing to travel around the country, and the world, with me for various competitions," he said.

Naidu lives in Cowies Hill with his parents, Dr Sean Naidu and Dr Anoshini Moodley, and his younger brother, Jaedon. When not getting stuck into his studies and stretching the bounds of mathematics, he enjoys playing chess and table tennis.

Words: Sally Frost