GCSEs: Star pupils battle through painful illnesses to score top grades

Henrietta Barnett School pupil Thilani Babuji. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Henrietta Barnett School pupil Thilani Babuji. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Two students struck by chronic illnesses have overcome the odds to get top GCSE results.

Camden School for Girls pupil Clara McDade.

Camden School for Girls pupil Clara McDade. - Credit: Archant

Henrietta Barnett School pupil Thilani Babuji, 16, scored top grades despite an illness which left her hospitalised in the lead up to the exams.

While Camden School for Girls pupil Clara McDade was forced to leave school two months before the end of her last term, just before her GCSE exams, because she suffers from chronic pain syndrome, a condition which gives her constant shooting pains in her legs.

Thilani, of South Harrow, developed Henoch-Schönlein purpura, a rare autoimmune disease, just a month before the start of her GCSE exams, which put her in hospital and left her barely able to walk and hold a pen.

But against all the odds, the teenager completed all her exams and was stunned to discover last Thursday (August 22) that she had picked up 8 A*s, 2 As and a B.

She said: “I was expecting Bs and Cs and maybe an occasional A and even a D in several of them. I wasn’t expecting this - I was stunned when I opened my results and I couldn’t move for a bit!”

The condition caused blood vessels in Thilani’s legs to rupture, leading to swelling in her legs as well as random and sporadic bursts of painful swelling in her joints.

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She was on medication for a number of her exams and was even rushed to hospital following an art exam because of a severe swelling attack.

“My condition meant my joints would start swelling at the most inappropriate times,” said Thilani.

“I had to improvise for one of my English exams, I couldn’t physically hold a pen so I had to resort to using a laptop. But the school were really supportive.

“It was the belief of people around me - the faith my family and the school had in me - that made me think, ‘I’m going to try as hard as I can’.”

Thilani will return to Henrietta Barnett School, in Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb, in September to begin studying for A-levels in biology, chemistry, geography and Latin.

Last Thursday, Camden School for Girls pupil Clara also opened her results to find she had achieved five A*s and two As.

She said: “I’m very hard-working and I wanted to get good results so it has been really difficult as the condition affected my whole school life, and socially it’s been really hard.

“The doctors told me I would probably have to redo my exams which was so frustrating. But I want to go to university so I tried to get better to do well in the exams.”

The 16-year-old has had chronic pain syndrome since the age of 12, but it was not until her final GCSE year that the pain in her legs became constant, meaning that she could hardly walk.

Clara, who lives in Highbury, was forced to drop a few subjects but was determined to defy her doctors and pass the exams first time round.