Calabash encourages pupils to embrace their identity

Chris Hani High School pupils were in jubilant mood after winning their high school category.

Scores of pupils from primary and high schools in Khayelitsha kept spectators on the edge of their seats as they battled for supremacy during a read-a-thon and write-a-thon, at Chris Hani High School, in Makhaza, on Saturday March 18.

The contest was organised by the Calabash Storytellers, an initiative of well-known actor Andrea Dondolo, to encourage young people to learn about their heritage including knowing how to recite their clan names and the country’s national anthem.

The pupils were also taught about the importance of national symbols, the African Union anthem, as well as about National Orders and the National Coat of Arms during a five-month programme which started in October last year. An enthusiastic crowd made up of teachers, parents and pupils cheered on while the performers impressed them with their knowledge. Vuzamanzi, Kuyasa, Injongo, St Michael’s and Homba primary schools participated and they were joined by Manyano, Chris Hani and Intlanganiso high schools. Pupils competed in a reading contest with the winners walking away with R2 500.

Ms Dondolo said the programme aimed to encourage young people to be proud of their diverse heritage and to play their role in preserving it.

She said the programme also played a crucial role in improving the pupils’ reading ability and vocabulary. She said as judges they were looking at how the pupils had interpreted what they had learnt. “We wanted all the schools in Khayelitsha to be part of the programme but some could not respond to our invitations. Other schools seemed not to be interested but we hope that next time all of them would be part of it and we hope that the Department of Arts and Culture would continue providing funding for this programme,” said Ms Dondolo.

Chief Zamindawo Msuthwana believes that the programme plays a significant role in educating young people about their roots.

He noted that the Western cultures are undermining African cultures and devaluing their importance. He then urged government to support such initiatives.

Injongo Primary School teacher, Pam Nkanganana, said they were excited about clinching the number one spot among the primary schools. She said programmes such as these play a vital role in expanding the general knowledge of the pupils and were much needed.

National Department of Arts and Culture representative, Sibusiso Khumalo, said they were thrilled about what the project had achieved. He said this was the first time they had funded such an initiative and they would now report back to Minister Nathi Mthethwa and his deputy and hopefully they would provide additional funding to sustain it.

Chris Hani High School pupil, Zukile Nelisana, said they knew that they were going to win the competition. He said art is what they do every day at school and the fact that the competition was held at the school was an additional bonus.