This photo is showcasing the twelve speech competition finalists from years 7 and 8 at Mercury Bay Area school. They are all 12 or 13 years of age.
Their task was to present a speech in front of all their peers, well over 120 students, their teachers and three judges, one of whom was their Principal, Ross Dunn. The other judges were Pieta Begley, a former teacher of English at the school, and the Editor of The Informer, Pauline Stewart.
This kind of rigour for speech competitions and judging the speeches happens all over New Zealand for 12- and 13-year-olds. However, I wish to talk about this particular local competition.
The young people were very well prepared and in almost every case, their topics were well researched. Some had learned their speech by heart. Others had memorised less but all used some form of cue card just in case.
The subject matter consisted of – why paying attention to your education is vital; why phones should be limited; Zoos are simply wrong; more toilets and serviced rest areas are needed in New Zealand; light pollution needs restrictions and more.
My understanding is that these young people decided their own tropics, they spoke with conviction, and one got the sense that the world and issues about the future were of great concern to them.
Their ability with language was well developed with many offering a Māori greeting or conclusion.
I am aware there is a lot of criticism of the current curriculum and the level of literacy among New Zealand’s children is declining. I could not see any of that in these 12 young people – their ability to communicate in a stressed environment was very good. Sure, some spoke a little too fast and some didn’t seem relaxed but then most well communicating adults are the same. All of them got their message across and each one was convincing. What the speeches revealed about their different natures and their raw talent and ability to cope was a tribute to them personally, their environment - family and their school. The results of the competition are yet to be announced.
Caption: Participants of the speech competition.