Monday, 27 February 2012

Lahore Grammar School girl to represent Pakistan in London

Public speaking is imperative in helping children reach their potential and we need such opportunities in the country.

KARACHI: Tooba Ahmad Sheikh from Lahore Grammar School and Ahmed Nawaz from Fazaia College Islamabad are going to represent Pakistan at the International Public Speaking Competition in London, UK, to be held in the summer.

Tooba came first and Ahmed second at the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) nationals held on Thursday and Friday at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi. “The experience was great and I am thrilled to judged the national winner,” said Tooba.

Public speaking is imperative in helping children reach their potential and we need such opportunities in the country.” Nawaz represented Pakistan last year and made it to the semi-finals. 

The theme for the first round of the four-minute and 30-second speeches was Wisdom of Youth. While some participants chose to restrict themselves to the words ‘wisdom’ and ‘youth’, others also spoke on multi-dimensional topics related to youth. Subjects which caught the audience’s attention included too much money or the lack thereof, social messages through cartoons and laughter, the role of the media, ending child labour, and the right to make mistakes but not repeat them. 

Mahnoor Ayub from the DA Public School chose to quote from Henri Estienne in her speech: “If youth only knew, if only age could.” Her choice happened to encapsulate the general consensus in the room for both the young speakers and the judges. 

Many speakers offered the theory that ‘youth’ is a state of mind, but one of the speakers pointed out the United Nations defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24. The speeches challenged, applauded, glorified and even picked on the youth. 

Most of the speakers said that the only hope left for the country – in fact the world – was the youth, as the previous generations ‘could not do the job’. The judges, gently yet persistently, reminded the young lot through their questions and comments at the end of the speeches about the importance of guidance from their elders. 

As the speakers talked of inspiration, some names came up more than others, including those of the late Arfa Karim, Ali Moin Nawazish, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Khalida Brohi. The prevalent message was the need for change, but answers to how it should be brought about were vague. An animated Babar Ali from the Korangi Public School had a suggestion. He said that professional training for communication skills should be introduced in schools and colleges to give shape to the youngsters’ ideas. 

In the second round, the students were given 15 minutes to prepare for speaking on a topic. They were not allowed to seek advice or tips from accompanying teacher trainers during this round. The topics ranged from hijab to pop idols, to why the chicken crossed the road. 

The competition, which has been running for more than 10 years, took place at the Beach Luxury Hotel with the participation of 34 students from 17 schools and colleges. 

The winners 
On Thursday in the Karachi competition, Salaar Sheikh from Karachi Grammar School won the title for the Best Speaker, followed by Mahnoor Nadeem from Convent of Jesus and Mary. They went on to compete on Friday in the nationals but didn’t make it. 

The third position, according to the audience’s votes, was awarded to Haris Hashmi from the Korangi Academy. Hashmi’s speech, perhaps not the most eloquent but the most invigorating, focused on how the youth needed to be pro active and look for opportunities rather than wait for them to be created. Giving his own example, he told the audience how he tried to play his part by cleaning his street every morning after Fajr prayers. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.

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