Teamwork inspires young writers

Louise Guillaume

Commonwealth Network: Commonwealth in Action

The 2014 Commonwealth Essay Competition sees 10,000 entrants from more than 500 schools putting their creative thinking into this year’s theme of ‘team Commonwealth’

Prize Winners

The Royal Commonwealth Society welcomed to London the winners and runners-up of its flagship youth programme the Commonwealth Essay Competition, for a week of cultural and educational activities, culminating in a special award ceremony held at Buckingham Palace in November. The event was also an occasion to mark the launch of the 2015 competition, renamed The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s role as both head of the Commonwealth and patron of the RCS.

In 2014 the competition saw another year of extraordinary achievement. Taking this year’s Commonwealth theme, ‘team Commonwealth’, as its focus, the contest received nearly 10,000 entries from more than 500 schools in 44 Commonwealth countries and territories. Young writers across the globe interpreted the theme through their own unique personal and cultural perspectives, impressing the judges with the quality and breadth of their work.

The judges, a team of 56 writers, scholars and educators from across the Commonwealth, selected more than 2,000 entries to receive Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. It was then up to the final judging panels – chaired by Vicki Wienand from competition partner Cambridge University Press – to select the top entries.

The Senior category was won by 15-year-old Raniya Hosain, a pupil at Lahore College of Arts and Sciences in Pakistan. Her winning entry, based on the topic ‘Describe what your country has to offer other members of the [Commonwealth] team’, charmed judges with its heart-warming tale of an elderly and impoverished Pakistani fruit seller who inspires generosity and laughter in those he meets.

The Junior category was won by ten-year-old Max de Bourcier, a pupil at St Michael’s Preparatory School in Jersey. His entry, Being a Team Player, is an honest and humorous account of his experiences of trying to be part of a team.

This year’s runners-up come from Singapore and Canada. The Senior runner-up, 16-year-old Selina Xu, who is a pupil at Nanyang’s Girls’ High School in Singapore, wrote a thought-provoking essay that made use of a local idiom to examine the culture of competition. The Junior runner-up, 13-year-old Leah Annia Plante-Wiener, a pupil at The Study in Westmount, Canada, explored the theme of unity. She wrote an insightful account of living with anxiety and the fight to overcome it.

The achievements of Raniya, Max, Selina and Leah were celebrated at the Buckingham Palace award ceremony, at which the Duchess of Cornwall, as the Queen’s representative, presented the young writers with their prizes. The event was also attended by a number of diplomats, educationists and writers from across the Commonwealth, who were invited to help launch The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2015.

This is the first time in the competition’s 131-year history that the RCS has put Her Majesty’s name to the competition, and it is illustrative of both the evolving nature of the contest and the head of the Commonwealth’s support for the promotion of literacy, expression and creativity among young people. The theme of the 2015 competition, ‘a young Commonwealth’, acknowledges the fact that young people account for the majority of the Commonwealth’s population and play a vital role in the world that we live in, now and in years to come.

At a time when global leaders gather to set the development goals for the next 15 years, it is hoped that the responses will generate an important youth perspective that will help to inform both the society’s work and that of the wider international community.

About the author:

Louise Guillaume is the programmes assistant at the Royal Commonwealth Society


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