The final round of the annual Mahatma Gandhi Speech and Essay Contest was held on 7 March 2008 at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The preliminary rounds of the speech contest were hosted at schools across the province. The finals brought together 12 speech contest finalists from the preliminary rounds and 10 finalists from the first round of the essay writing competition. Prepared 4 minute speeches were presented, followed by a 2 minute impromptu segment. Pupils were judged on content, presentation and delivery of their speeches. All presentations were of an extremely high standard.
The adjudicators for the finals were Mr H.B Singh a former educationist and community activist, Mr D Ganesh, a retired school principal and Busisiswe Peggy Msimango, manager of the Ikhwezi Training Institute.
The competition which was hosted by Satyagraha and the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) was financially supported by the Indian Consulate in Durban. About 100 schools from throughout KwaZulu-Natal participated in the competition.
The topics were based on the Gandhian ideals of truth, non-violence, respect, peace and harmony. They also encompassed national unity, the spirit of Ubuntu, democracy and transformation. Over three hundred guests and learners from the various schools attended the event. The guest of honour was the Indian Consul General, His Excellency Harsh Vardhan Shringla. He encouraged learners to adopt a non-violent stance and peaceful methods in conflict resolution. “Ubuntu, which is one of the founding principles of the new Republic of South Africa, is to my mind the modern derivative of Gandhiji’s Sarvodaya, the efflorescence of an idea and concept developed a hundred years ago and the continuing link between India and South Africa. Undoubtedly, these concepts have merged in the understanding of great leaders such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Inkosi Albert Luthuli,” said Shringla.
In addressing the learners Shringla said “As finalists in the competition, you have proven your ability and understanding of some of the issues we are grappling with and their long term solutions. It is therefore incumbent upon you to spread the understanding of the message of peace and non violence to your peers and to society at large.”
“I believe you are the future of your country and the world community. It is not me nor your parents but you who will truly determine how the 21st century will evolve. It is you, the students of the schools that have so competently participated in the Speech and Essay Competition, who have had the foresight to mentally grapple with some of the principal issues that global society is dealing with today,” added Shringla.
The speech contest segment was won by Nelson Mkhize of Macken Mistry School, with Divya Naidoo of Brighton Beach Primary School in second place and Thejas Behadar of Berea Primary being placed third. The essay writing segment was won by Gelene Munsamy of Verulam Secondary School with Ruan Marx from Hoerskool Suid Natal being placed second and Khululiwe Khanyile from Inanda Seminary, being placed third.
The winners won R1 000 each for themselves and R1 000 for their schools while those in second place received R750 for themselves and their schools and those placed third won R500 for themselves and their school. All winners received outright trophies and the winners won floating trophies for their schools. All finalists were awarded with certificates. In addition they received educational literature packages from Satyagraha and the Indian Consulate.
The speeches and essays of the finalists will be published in forthcoming editions of Satyagraha in Pursuit of Truth.