The Steve Biko competition encourages young minds to think big

Biko competition participants recite poems
Biko competition participants recite poems

Learners from various local high schools came together for the annual Steve Biko Competition in Eden Grove, at Rhodes University on Saturday. The event was organised by the Equity & Institutional Culture office to commemorate the passing of Stephen Bantu Biko, one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement in the early 1970s.

Biko was born in Ginsberg, King Williams Town on the 18th of December. He studied medicine at the University of Natal, where he joined the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). He was one of the founders of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) in 1968. This organisation was where the ideology of Black Consciousness and self-reliance were formed. His influence saw him become one of the most wanted activists by the Apartheid State and was detained on several occasions. He was arrested and later assassinated on the 12th of September 1977.

In preparation for the competition, the learners were given a copy of Biko’s 1978 compilation of writings, I Write What I Like to read and were later given an in-depth workshop on the book. The learners recited essays and poetry, sharing their experiences of getting to know of Biko more through the materials they were given.

Noluthando Sibisi, a Rhodes University student and one of the judges, urged all the participants to sharpen their public speaking skills and think critically. She said: “you all did exceptionally well, and we really hope you continue to make yourselves proud. You can do the work of reading the material you’re given and not agree with what you’re reading. You can mention the downsides of the person you’re studying, and it doesn’t mean they’re entirely bad people.”

The learners also got feedback about the skill of public speaking, they were encouraged to approach it as storytelling and to work on improving the technical aspects of public speaking such as voice projection and language use.  

Associate Subject Head of Creative Writing at Rhodes University, Dr Hleze Kunju, encouraged learners to know their roots and use this knowledge in the creative process: “We need to constantly believe the message and the values that Biko taught, we need to make his legacy popular in order to always remember our potential as young people in this country,” he said.

The winners will enjoy lunch with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela and also received book vouchers.