Young, gifted and eloquent

2008-10-16 00:00

Six local teenagers will be on tenterhooks until tomorrow night when they meet to hear the results of the Mandela School Speech Contest at the Sinodale Centre. Chosen from contestants from 45 schools in the greater Pietermaritzburg area, the six finalists are competing for prizes worth a total of R35 000. They spoke to The Witness about the experience.


Seventeen-year-old Murray Burn, a Grade 11 pupil at St Charles’ College, said that he was plain delighted when he found out that he was chosen as one of the finalists.

“I am so excited. But the excitement is more because my speech has been heard and I am hoping that it will somehow make a difference. I don’t care about the money; I care about the children and bringing awareness to the public about HIV/Aids orphans and vulnerable children, which is what my speech was all about.”

Visiting France (a rural settlement on the Richmond Road) nearly every day was a humbling experience for Burn who was exposed to children who live in dire conditions.

Burn describes himself as a “shy”, “caring” and “kind” individual who loves listening to music, working with children and drawing. When he finishes school, Burn hopes to become a teacher or journalist.


“Although I am a Zulu, I have never entered a speech competition speaking Zulu before and so I am very pleased and surprised that I am a finalist,” said 16-year-old Nonjabulo Mcwabe, a Grade 11 pupil at Epworth High School.

She wrote her speech about HIV/Aids orphans and vulnerable children because she says she felt strongly about raising public awareness about the pandemic.

“Through my research I realised that it is actually a very scary situation. Our school is part of Interact, which is a Rotary programme that enables us (pupils at Epworth) to help underprivileged pupils from other schools with food and clothes donations as well as befriending them.

“So I do know of a few children who have been infected or affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic,” says the bubbly pupil who is described by her friends as being a little “crazy.” She loves music and singing and says that she is very culturally oriented.


Sanele Gumede, a charismatic, 17-year-old pupil at Ikusaselihle High School, says his speech on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison was a very interesting topic to research.

“It took me a long time to research and put it together. I didn’t even sleep sometimes. I was trying by all means to make it better than better. I even roped my mum in so that she could listen. When she said that she liked it, I was bursting with pride.

“I didn’t expect (to be chosen as a finalist), but entering this competition was a really good thing because I am fulfilled with the amount of information I gathered and have a new appreciation for our heroes in politics who fought for the freedom of this country.”

He enjoys singing in the classical school choir, running and playing soccer. “Exercise is important, it keeps your body healthy and your mind active,” he says.


At only 15 years of age, Matwenhle Majozi is a few months away from her matric year and is torn between applying for medicine or becoming a poet. “I love reading and writing poetry, but I also love working with people and taking care of them,” says the Sukuma High School pupil.

She describes herself as being an adventurous, fun-to-be-around, hard- working, quiet person who is also “very generous”.

“I wrote my speech on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. I learnt that he is a passionate person, unique because he fought for freedom and did not have an ounce of vengeance in his heart.”


Eighteen-year-old Sahara Nankan, a matric pupil at The Wykeham Collegiate, says that she was in the middle of her preliminary exams when she found out about the competition but knew she had to enter.

“It is an honour for me to represent my school and an even greater honour because this is the first year that we (the school) have entered this particular kind of competition.”

Her speech was based on the topical issue of youth in a new democracy and all the challenges that they face, especially since there seems to be a “leadership vacuum” in the country.

The bubbly pupil is head of the debating society, loves reading and soccer and is only a belt away from her black belt in karate. “Karate is a good way for a woman to learn to defend herself. I have also become more focused and disciplined because of it.”


Lindelwa Sikekane, a 16-year-old pupil at Silver Heights High School, said that she is very excited about being in the finals, especially since she has been entering speech competitions for a while now with this being the first time that she has actually been chosen as a finalist.

Her speech was about politics and the Seven Days War (in the nineties in the Pietermaritzburg area). “I was born and grew up in Hammarsdale and therefore wasn’t even aware that Pietermaritzburg had a seven-day war so it was hard work researching the topic and also very interesting learning about it,” she says.

Sikekane describes herself as being “very friendly, talkative, outgoing and loves having fun”. She also enjoys reading, music and hockey.

“I don’t play hockey at school because we don’t have a coach, but if I were to play a sport it would definitely be hockey.”

Winners’ prizes

The Mandela School Speech Contest, open to 45 schools in the greater Pietermaritzburg area, is organised by the Greater Edendale Development Initiative (Gedi) and The Natal Witness group. A R35 000 cash prize will be divided between the winners. The six finalists — three from the Zulu- and three from the English-speaking categories — will gather to hear the results at the Sinodale Centre. Each winner will walk away with a floating trophy and the winners and finalists will each receive a medal and a cash prize. The winner in each category receives R10 000, second place winners R5 000 and third place winners R2 000 each. All entrants will receive a small cash prize for their effort and hard work.

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