Learners, teachers gather for Schools Choral Eisteddfod finals

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

By More Matshediso

Johannesburg - Thousands of learners and teachers from different schools across South Africa gathered on Monday for the opening ceremony of the 2015 South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE) National Championships.

The opening ceremony was held by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and officiated by President Jacob Zuma at Gallagher Convention Centre, in Midrand.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said this year’s SASCE was special as it sees the reintegration of the farm school training programme, which includes a mentorship programme.

She said the programme is aimed at ensuring that the farm school communities are brought on par with other schools in terms of musical performance.

The 2015 edition of the SASCE marks 15 years since its establishment and it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, which was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

The department therefore decided to host the event under the theme “Celebrating 60 Years of the Freedom Charter through Music”.

The learners, who took to the stage to give the audience a taste of their musical talents during the opening ceremony, have been on a musical camp since Friday to prepare for the finals.

The SASCE finals get underway on Tuesday at Rhema Bible Church in Randburg and will conclude on Thursday. All provinces are represented at the championships.

Retshedisitswe Lebokollane, 18, was one of the young facilitators from UNICEF who helped to integrate learners during the camp.

Lebokollane said most farm learners were initially nervous and found it difficult to relate with other learners. The camp was necessary to integrate them into a bigger group so that they could gain confidence and perform at their best.

“The camp helped them a lot. I think they are now ready for the championships. They are confident and are able to chat with other learners. They were all brought together to sing in a mass choir at some point and they did well,” said Lebokollane, who is also a Grade 12 learner at T.M. Letlhake Secondary School, in Westonaria.

Educator and musician, George Phahlane Mohlala, played the role of a workshop facilitator, choir trainer, coach and adjudicator during the camp.

He said the camp created a platform for learners and teachers to identify their musical challenges and areas that needed improvement, so that they can maximise their performances at the time of the competition.

“It also assisted in social cohesion and integrating learners from different backgrounds so that those who come from rural areas do not feel shy.

“Musically, most learners who come from secluded places do not have mentors but the camp exposed them to a lot of programmes, which well prepared them for the competition and beyond,” said Mohlala.

President Zuma said the event was an appropriate and exciting way to end Youth Month, which is marked in June.

He said young people who attended the event were moving, not only South Africa but, Africa forward through music. He said music was a very powerful instrument of uniting people across the borders of the continent.

“Music plays an important role in African societies. It is an integral part of the life of every African.

“Music and dance are activities that characterise an African musical expression and play an important part in the lives of the people. Choral music in particular, has been extremely popular in our country for decades,” he said.

The President said the SASCE Championship is important in promoting people’s culture, and to teach children all that is exciting and colourful about their culture.

He said the Freedom Charter declared that: “the doors of learning and culture shall be opened!” and it further said: “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children”.

“The music competition resonates very well with these principles as it is accessible to all learners,” he said.

The President said the educational needs of learners in the 21st century extend beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.

“[Education] should build a total human being, and that entails teaching our children to celebrate their culture and identity. I am pleased that this choral music national championships includes the performance of 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' the National Anthem of the Republic of South Africa.

“I am even more impressed by the addition to the music performance of the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and also performance of the Plea for Africa. It is also even more significant that we have included the singing of the African Union (AU) Anthem as part of this 2015 edition,” said President Zuma.

He said this helps to instil in learners that South Africa is an integral part of the African continent.

The President encouraged young people to be free to express themselves through music, song and dance, and said it is part of their African existence and culture, regardless of your colour, race or creed.

The President said there is the need for all schools to teach history as a subject and for it to be compulsory.

“Youth need to know the history of this country and of the African people generally in the continent so that they can be able to chart a better future.

“Without knowing the past, our children and youth will be people without a foundation and without any grounding whatsoever. They will be inclined to repeat the mistakes of the past. We urge parents to support us in the campaign to promote history as a subject in all our schools,” he said.

The President was pleased that the 2015 competition also included neighbouring countries such as Swaziland schools, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana.

He said discussions to include other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states are ongoing. - SAnews.gov.za

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