Thinking outside box about public speaking

Andile Mnguni, founder of Roar SA, which teaches children public speaking.
Andile Mnguni, founder of Roar SA, which teaches children public speaking.
Image: PENWELL DLAMINI

To many people, public speaking is something for a select few individuals born with the talent, but to Andile Mnguni, it is something that every child should learn to become a better leader.

Mnguni finished her matric in 2018 at Queens High School in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg.

Originally, she wanted to pursue a degree in law, specialising in human rights, but that had to be shelved.

She parked all her extra-curricular activities in matric to focus on her studies. It was during this time that she reflected on what she really wanted to do with her life.

"I realised that what I wanted to do was not necessarily law but to help people. But then I asked myself, 'what am I good at, what was different about me?' and the answer was public speaking. I realised that people don't naturally develop that skill unless it is their innate ability.

"From a really young age, I really loved speaking in front of people. I then asked myself, 'how can I make a difference with this passion for public speaking?' I realised that in high school, if someone was unable to speak in front of the class, other children would laugh at him. I noticed that about 35% of the people were actually good at public speaking," she said.

Mnguni learnt about the concept of social entrepreneurship and registered a nonprofit company called Roar SA in January last year.

She immediately started approaching primary schools, explaining how she wanted to train children in public speaking. She said the response was overwhelming.

Last year, she reached 2,100 children in seven schools.

Mnguni's priority is for children to master the skill of public speaking.

Roar SA trains children once a week over 10 weeks.

"If I realised that the children need more time at a specific school I then spend more time at that specific school," Mnguni said.

She is currently studying social entrepreneurship at the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria.

She asserts that public speaking is required in every field.

"We are not taught about it at school and therefore we do not develop the skill while it is so important for the success of any career. Even people in the sporting fields need to have an ability to speak in public," Mnguni said.

The programme deliberately focuses on primary schools and not high schools.

"It is about laying down a foundation for the future generations. I am more interested on the long-term benefits that the children will enjoy by mastering the skill of public speaking. Public speaking requires independent thinking. That is something we do not have in our education space. It is about saying to a child, 'you [have a] textbook but you also have your own ideas.'" she said.

In the next few years, Mnguni wants to grow her organisation so that it can have more employees and be able to reach more children.

Mnguni was chosen as a Global Teen Leader for South Africa in a programme run by We Are Family Foundation. There are only 35 of such leaders in the world with the conference happening online.

Mnguni believes the education system has to change in order to produce people who will come up with solutions that will solve current and future problems.

"The engagement in the classroom says ask a question but is only confined to the material before the class. We are not encouraged to think outside the box. That has to change," she said.

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