Rylands High pupils aim to make history

Pictured are the pupils at the competition. From left are Firdous Badrodien, Ameer Adams, Khadeejah Taliep, and Anwar Ali Waglay.

Four Rylands High School Grade 11 pupils will represent their school in the national round of a heritage competition, in the Northern Cape, next month.

The Heritage Education Schools Outreach Programme is a competition run by the National Heritage Council of South Africa. It teaches pupils about South Africa’s cultural heritage and diversity, and the Rylands High pupils beat off competition from six other high schools – Bloubergrant, Rocklands, Villiersdorp, Settlers, John Ramsy and Ilingelethu – to win the provincial leg.

The pupils had to find a common thread between the late Oliver Tambo, the Trojan Horse Memorial and a cultural practice of their choice – the Rylands pupils selected the ritual of Ratib.

Rylands High School history teacher Hussain Mohamed said the competition encouraged critical thinking, as pupils had to find and interpret information from several sources to write an essay.

“These pupils developed research, investigative and interpretation skills,” he said.

Anwar Ali Waglay, 17, from Athlone, was responsible for compiling the conclusion of the project. He said it had taken him some time but he had eventually found a way to link the former ANC president, the monument to an apartheid-era atrocity and a mystical Islamic ritual that sees devotees pierce their bodies with sharp instruments as demonstrations of their faith.

“Research makes you realise that there is so much that you don’t know; it shapes our future. At the end of the day, it all came down to teamwork,” he said.

Firdous Badrodien, 17, from Surrey Estate, focused on the Trojan Horse Memorial. She said the competition had been very challenging and it had eaten up a lot of their holiday time, but the team had learnt how to manage their time and cope with the sort of pressure they would face next year in matric.

“One of the important things that I learnt through the competition was the dynamic of a team. I encourage other pupils to participate as it gets you in touch with your roots and heritage,” she said.

Khadeejah Taliep, 17, from Athlone, said she had learnt a lot about Ratib while researching it, and she felt the project had boosted her confidence and developed her public speaking skills. “Pupils should enter the competition even if they don’t know much about history. There are lots of sources to get the information from. They should open themselves up to the opportunity,” she said.

Ameer Adams, 17, from Vanguard Estate, researched Oliver Tambo.

“The judges pointed out that one of the reasons we won was that we worked so well as a team,” he said.

Rylands High principal Kona Naidoo said she was very proud of the pupils and staff.

“It really means a lot to our school. We pride ourselves on our academic achievements so we need to do well in our co-curricular activities as well. We want to encourage more pupils to take part as it can make a difference in their academic performance as the competition allows for more learning and insight.”