Jan van Riebeeck High School Grade 12 pupils Theodore Pauw and Louise Goethals have made the Western Cape proud at this year’s Home Language English Olympiad.
The competition drew 6 411 entries from across South Africa and neighbouring countries and winners were announced at a prize-giving ceremony in Grahamstown on July 10.
Theodore and Louise were ranked 5th and 7th respectively.
Two other Cape Town pupils from Camps Bay High and Rustenburg Girls’ High School also came in the top 20.
The theme for the 2018 Olympiad was “The poetry of war and peace” and was based on an anthology titled We will remember them.
Louise said she has an Afrikaans background but enjoyed English literature. She said she did all she could to practice for the competition.
“I didn’t know what to expect so I tried to prepare as much as I could,” she said.
Theodore said the opportunity was wonderful because he was able to develop his own skills and learn more about the world. He said his preparation for the olympiad involved listening to poems being read out loud.
“I looked at the structure of the poems and tried to focus on the message of the poems,” he said.
The pupils agreed that though the competition helped them connect with the world, it was tough.
“Some of the poems were intense and emotionally draining. There was one that was about soldiers drowning and it was quite disturbing,” said Louise.
“Some of the poems were a lot to process because the poets painted such a vivid picture that I couldn’t help but imagine experiencing the horrors. It was necessary to take a break and remind myself that the world was a bit better now,” said Theodore.
The pupils said apart from learning that the world was a messed up place, they learnt the importance of knowing history. They learnt to be aware of everyone around them and not dismiss people.
“We learnt to be cautious of propaganda and beliefs held by large groups of people that could be dangerous and spread like wildfire,” said Theodore, who plans to study a joint degree in accounting and law at Stellenbosch University next year.
Louise wants to be an academic and do medical research.
The national chairperson of the South African Council for English Education, Malcolm Venter, said to be placed in the top 50 was no mean achievement.
“The olympiad demands a considerable amount of preparation on the part of the candidates, and they have to face a three-hour examination which requires answers that show original thinking and an ability to express themselves in a creative style, while at the same time substantiating their views from the prescribed text,” he said.
Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer, hailed the pupils who entered the competition. “My hearty congratulations go to all learners who took part. I am proud of your achievements,” she said.