How a Post Office Strike Led to Thespian Revolution at Madlala

On 4th March 2014, in another first for the Madlala Digital Learning Centre and enabled by the All Heart Fund, 29 learners entered the 2014 De Beers English Olympiad Competition based on the anthology ‘Life is a Laugh’ (Language, Literature and Laughter).

Three plays were selected: An extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an extract from Romeo and Juliet, and The King of Laughter, a South African play by Craig Freimond. Learners were required to write as first language English speakers and they didn’t object, they went for it!

Heads down, game faces on at Madlala Digital Learning Centre.

Heads down, game faces on at Madlala Digital Learning Centre.

What’s a competition without a few challenges along the way though? We faced our fair share beginning with a post office strike which led to the late arrival of the anthologies from the Eastern Cape (extremely late). Our learners had never been formally exposed to Shakespeare before nor had they ever studied plays.

You’d think that as a result of facing all of these challenges, our young learners would give up, back off, and throw in the towel.

They didn’t.

They came up with ideas and solutions, copies were made and each learner selected a partner to do the rehearsals with. Shakespeare movies and snippets were watched and re-enacted. Our learners also “democratically” decided in favour of a daily afternoon meeting after school. When this was not enough, each one of them attended a full Saturday session as well.

The Oxford Dictionary taking pride of place on Mercy's desk. The Olympiad was enabled by the All Heart Fund.

The Oxford Dictionary taking pride of place on Mercy’s desk. The Olympiad was enabled by the All Heart Fund.

I couldn’t help but marvel at the courage and commitment of our students. They made me feel so proud because they were going for the prize. They want that R25 000.00 and everything that comes with it. And you know what, to me they are winners, I believe they have already won it and then some.

Now we are awaiting the results which will come out in June.

Yours in thespian spirit,
Linky Nkuna -Centre Coordinator at Madlala Digital Learning Centre

About the De Beers English Olympiad
The De Beers English Olympiad is a national English competition that draws more than 7000 entries each year. The competition is organized jointly by the Grahamstown Foundation and the South African Council for English Education. The primary objectives of the De Beers English Olympiad are:

  • To enrich learners through the study of English; encouraging them to explore it beyond the scope of the school syllabus;
  • To encourage critical thinking and creative writing as learners enjoy the challenges of preparing for and writing the examination;
  • To promote the English language and stimulate the study of English amongst first and second English Language speakers, and to proactively increase the participation of candidates in previously disadvantaged schools;
  • To provide access to these benefits for motivated learners unable to pay the entry fee, through the provision of bursaries.