The ASISC national level declamation and creative writing contest explores the special skills of High School students in writing and speaking

More than 50 students from all over the country qualified for creative writing contest and another 70-odd made it to the finals of the national level declamation contest conducted by the Association of the Schools for Indian School Certificate (ASISC). The annual competition is into its 56th year and Lakshmi School, Madurai, played host to the event for the first time.

Having defeating their counterparts at the zonal level, the 125 plus high-schoolers representing 24 States were serious about their participation, ability, potential and confidence. “I feel proud to represent my State in the nationals,” said Pranati G, of class XII St.Joseph’s Public School Hyderabad. She was the regional winner in declamation.

Animatedly rehearsing Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN – the topic for senior girls, she said she had been practising endlessly for the last 72 hours. Parents and teachers of these young and smart girls and boys had provided them with the opportunities to shine and they were all ready to take on the battle.

The junior boys (class IX and X) showed their art of declaiming with Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address while the junior girls had to roll out the coronation speech of Queen Elizabeth II. The senior boys had to display their prowess with Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’

The stage was set for a tough fight as all the participants rendered the assigned speeches very effectively and dramatically. Of the final dozen national winners from the four categories, the industrial city of Kanpur bagged half the prizes in the declamation contest. And the happiest among them all were the students of Swaraj India Public School who won a prize each in senior and junior girls and junior boys category.

Said Pulkit Mishra of class X who won the Second prize, “the most important thing is to be natural.” His batch mate Parnika Jhunjhunwala, who bagged the first place, added, “You have to first understand properly what you are speaking and then say it in your own way.” Their senior Shivika Rajesh who got the second prize in senior girls category said, “You have to read life into the passage to say it with feelings.”

Aditya Pazhoor Abraham of St.Thomas Residential School Thiruvananthapuram, who walked away with the First Prize in Senior boys category had been rehearsing Martin Luther King’s famous speech since September. After missing a prize in the national juniors last year, he worked hard this time round. “Everyday I listened to his speech on YouTube and let his emotions get under my skin. I followed every action and expression of his, every word the way he uttered…I had to give my best,” he said.

There was a big contingent of two dozen students from Rourkela who did not make it to the winner’s list. But, said, Sneha Das of Class X Carmel School, such competitions help us to make changes in our learning system. Sindhuja Nayak of class XII stressed on the fact how eye contact with the audience while rendering the speech helped her to conquer fear and the audience response boosted her confidence.

“I was looking forwarded to this competition,” added Aseema Tirkey, “to know how ahead my counterparts from other States are. This kind of an exposure helps us to develop further.”

The ASISC every year organises competitions in sports, literary fields and arts at city, regional and national levels. It gives a chance to the talented teenagers to bring their remarkable ability to a national audience. Thousands of students have been recognised over the last five decades and this event continues to be the longest running and most prestigious programme for students of ICSE schools across the country.

While the declamation contest students brought themselves along on stage with passion and confidence, there was another batch of students silently engaged in creative writing. They were given the topic two hours before and allowed to research in the library on their chosen subject. Some began to read novels and non-fiction immediately, others browsed the pages of dictionary and books of quotations and still others paged through the newspaper.

Sandra J.N.V of Class X St.Theresa’s School Hyderabad said her language was good and that is why she was in the finals. “My effort will be to focus on sound writing techniques. I will use more new, appropriate and difficult words in the essay I have chosen.”

For Nivea Sundarraj of Class XI St.Agnes Higher Secondary School, Kharagpur, the daily habit of independent reading and writing something, makes her more comfortable as a writer. “Schools and parents need to foster a culture of literacy and encourage children to write without the pressure of an assessment each time.”

The results of creative writing contest are yet to be declared. The junior boys were asked to write either a short story or on “the great escape” while for the junior girls it was either a short story or “on a mysterious neighbour. The senior category students got a choice of two topics each. “Money is happiness” and “If I have the power to invent something that will make this world a better place” for boys and “Its better to have brain than beauty” and “About two people in your life, one who brought pain and the other pure joy” for girls.

The students’ amazing ability to draw on their own life experiences and creatively express themselves was visible in every script,” remarked one of the judges.

At different venues across the country, similar competitions were simultaneously held in quiz, debate, painting, athletics and games like basketball, volleyball, cricket and football. The Lakshmi School has been the venue drawing and painting competition in the past and is the only school in Tamil Nadu to have hosted the national level competitions.