Gritty girl takes trophy

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

We dare not forget to press the "play" button if we want to engage fully in the game of life.

These were the bold words of spunky Gauteng lass Rorisang Thandekiso in her impromptu presentation at the national finals of the 2008 Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards in Crown Mines outside Soweto, Johannesburg.

As crowd favourite throughout, it came as no surprise when she was declared the overall winner in a tough contest that featured nine top public speakers.

Displaying admirable assertiveness, Thandekiso likened life to a game that had to be played with responsibility, accountability and purpose, while not forgetting to have a little bit of fun to lighten the seriousness.

Her prepared speech was titled So What? It was a poignant declaration of confidence in oneself - warts and all.

She said she was prepared to live a productive, prosperous and confident life, with all her imperfections, as long as she was happy to be herself - simply Rorisang Thandeka Thandekiso.

Thandekiso, second-placed Tuis Mofokeng of Mpumalanga and third-placed Lovelyn Nwadeyi from Eastern Cape, faced stiff challenges from Free State's Priscilla Sekhonyane, North West's Bakang Tshite, Western Cape's Mosidinyane Moleko, KwaZulu-Natal's Mnelisi Gasa, Limpopo's Tsakane Ngoepe and Northern Cape's Alicia Viljoen.

Mofokeng said he admired men and women with a purpose - such as South Africa's first black democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, and American civil rights movement icon Martin Luther King Jnr.

He said they were like potters to whom life and its challenges were like clay.

Nwadeyi said she refused to conform and that, among other things, she would not wear the traditional white wedding gown when she got married nor would she submit to peer pressure.

All the contestants displayed admirable research, situational interpretation and presentation skills and their confidence showed that they were receiving ongoing and priceless support, coaching, guidance and mentoring from their teachers.

Senior officials from the nine provincial education departments served as project coordinators.

Over the past 15 years they have helped make the Young Communicators Awards a thriving platform and space for pupils in Grades 11 and 12 in the public schools.

As one of Anglo American's many corporate social responsibility projects and part of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation's youth and public development activities, the Young Communicators Awards also seek to nurture assertive, confident, competitive and career-driven youngsters for whom English is not a mother tongue.

The awards aim to help to:

lImprove their public speaking skills - from the research to the presentation phase;

lDevelop participating pupils' leadership qualities; and

lEncourage a pioneering spirit among the contestants.

lFor pictures and speeches from the Young Communicators Awards finals go to www.sowetan