Verulam Secondary Learner Scoops Gandhi Essay Award

The annual Mahatma Gandhi Speech and Essay Contest was held in March 2008 at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The competition which was hosted by Satyagraha and the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) was sponsored by the Indian Consulate in Durban. Topics were based on the Gandhian ideals of truth, non-violence, respect, peace and harmony. The speech contest segment was won by Nelson Mkhize of Macken Mistry School, with Divya Naidoo of Brighton Beach Primary School in second place and Thejas Behadar of Berea Primary being placed third. Other finalists included Shavina Nadesan of Ferndale Combined, Nazrana Adam of Phoenix Heights, Caloshia Dasrath of Willow Park Primary, Adele Naidoo of Falcon Park Primary, Akira Bhoora of Naidoo Memorial Primary, Ayesha Abdul Ahmed of Briardale Primary, Tamera Gangadien of Aciacia Primary, Vishen Govender of Lotus Primary and Taldon Jessie Nair of Shakaskraal Primary.

The essay writing segment was won by Gelene Munsamy of Verulam Secondary School with Ruan Marx from Hoerskool Suid Natal being placed second and Khululiwe Khanyile from Inanda Seminary, being placed third. Other finalists in the essay category were Mitesh Govan of the Satya Sai School, Sonia Haribai of Eden College, Shavania Ragavan of Isipingo Secondary, Derushen Moodley of Wingen Heights, Cerisesha Ramsaroop of Northmead Secondary, Prebashni Devasigamoney of Ferndale Secondary and Terina Simone Naidoo of P R Pather Secondary School.

The winners won R1 000 each for themselves and R1 000 for their schools while those in second place received R750 for themselves and their schools and those placed third won R500 for themselves and their school.

This month Satyagraha  publishes the winning essay by Gelene Munsamy:

Are we a rainbow nation?

By Gelene Munsamy – Verulam Secondary School

South Africa – The land of dreams. A beacon of hope. The epitome of freedom. With a heritage that is as rich as the African soil, and a cultural diversity that transcends borders to establish a unified multiracial nation. A land where all men are equal. A land where possibilities are infinite, for where one comes from does not necessarily depict where one is going to…Its majestic mountains stretch appealingly towards the Gods and the crisp, green, grasslands is as vibrant as the beatings of the African drums. Oceans that join together in a perfectly harmonious balance of ying and yang, yet still retaining its strength and tranquility, like the emerging generation. Yes! This is South Africa – a rainbow nation.

After 14 years of democracy and transformation, of being internationally lauded as a uniquely multi cultural nation, cracks are beginning to radiate from the chinks of our democratic armour. We now beg the question – does South Africa’s democracy exist only on the surface, a pre-conceived ideal, or can it be upheld under deep analytical, justifiable analysis – “Are we a Rainbow Nation?”

A nation is seven luminous colours, fusing together exquisitely to create an arch formation that reflects light. The concept of South Africa’s rainbow nation stems from this. The seven colours embodies the diverse races, religions and cultures of South Africa, merging melodiously together to fabricate a unified nation. The arch illustrates the bridge of our cross – over to the new democracy while the “Long walk to freedom” is the metaphor of our long journey to reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or is the pot of gold a mere illusion? The pure light that the colours combine to form should symbolize hope, the dreams of the past becoming a reality in the present. In nature, the rainbow emerges only after a violent storm – as it did for hopeful Noah. Our rainbow nation should similarly manifest itself after being released from the volatile clutches of apartheid – but are South Africans fulfilling these prerequisites of a rainbow nation……

The day has not arrived where poverty and corruption is non-existent. Every South African is not truly equal. Violent crimes and hate speech is unfortunate, not taboo. A place where children are safe and protected does not exist, except on paper. When variation of skin pigmentation holds no social standing; when equality takes precedence, when treatment and judgement are formulated on content of character, then only will superficial differences fail to divide us. The day when society’s scourges, (like HIV/Aids) are completely eradicated and justices head is no longer severed, then only will we experience true liberation – then only shall we become the aspired to rainbow nation.

If we want to fulfill the dreams promised by the term ‘rainbow nation’, we need to live the dream that our forefathers had for us. We should follow suit and replicate the actions of legends like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Their actions sparked revelation and their iconic symbolism is the spur that South Africa needs to achieve her potential.

Let us practice what Gandhiji preached. As Mahatma Gandhi’s character and principles transcended into South Africa’s struggle for liberation, so did his empowering message of non-violence. For in today’s world it is often said that one must fight fire with fire as violence beckons violence. But is it not better to cool the fire with the subtleness of water? Like Gandhiji, let us cool the fire of violent crime and desperate despair with the purity of positive energy and a commitment to ensure change. As two wrongs never made a right but only conjured more anguish than what ignited the dispute in the first place. Many dispirited South Africans are leaving the land of their birth, seeking greener, crime-free pastures – but is rejection the solution? As active participants of past struggles and recipients of a relatively new democracy, it is our calling that we initiate reformation – a tool that will not only begin toady but live for tomorrow and be stronger than it was yesterday. Let us follow in Gandhi’s footsteps and live our lives according to his stipulations and so ensure the sustainability of our rainbow nation.

After a long journey it is our responsibility to reflect, but more importantly, our obligation to learn from our mistakes. As a nation, we need to unitedly come to the significant realization that being born on South African soil constitutes being born with the spirit of Nelson Mandela running through our veins, and the principles of Mahatma Gandhi entrenched in our soul. It is our duty to align with our subconscious and to resurrect these gifts that should be translated into a character-building experience.

ARE WE A RAINBOW NATION? WE WILL BE! For I am tomorrow and although our past represented pain, and the present is clouded with confusion, the future promises glory, for we make the choice……after all, this is our story!