How the National Eisteddfod transformed my life


My name is Mbofholowo Freedom Munukha and this is my story of how NEA transformed my life.

When I started my high school career (Grade 7) in the year 2000 at Ahmed Timol Secondary I was already a problem child from primary school. I was suspended several times in Primary and this habit was not about to change. Within the first term I had received several warnings and pending suspensions.

I was a candidate to be a drop out and possibly destined to live a life of poverty, crime, prison or early death, like some of my peers within my circle of friends. I was to be suspended/expelled for being caught buying cigarettes across the fence and smoking in school grounds. My Afrikaans and Life Orientation teacher, Mrs. JC Botha, stepped in and asked for the principal to give me a last chance. She asked if she could take me under her wing and place me in the drama group (Eisteddfod). I was given a choice either to comply with her request, or have my parents called to discuss my expulsion. I reluctantly agreed to her request.

She registered me into the NEA for Public speaking. The Eisteddfod was held at Randfontein High School (RHS). RHS was a prestigious school compared to my own school. All the learners who were present at the Eisteddfod were neatly dressed with blazers that displayed all their achievements. All I had was a pullover and tie, with dull shoes from all the walking I had to endure. The English that came out of their mouths was flawless and I spoke with my Venda accent and poorly structured English.

I wanted to pull out because I could see I was in way over my head. I told Mrs Botha that I couldn’t put myself through such humiliation. She smiled and with a soft tone said to me, “I didn’t bring here to win. All I ask from you is to give it your best because only your best is good enough for me.”

Those words gave me courage to stand in front of all those esteemed students and judges (adjudicators to be more precise but at that state they looked like they were there to judge all my faults). I delivered my speech in the best way I could. I spoke passionately in my broken English and Venda accent. I spoke about something I was passionate about (TECHNOLOGY).

The time came for the adjudicators to give the results. They started from the top. My name was not at the top nor was it at the bottom. I remember feeling so down. How could I have allowed myself to be so humiliated? Was my speech so bad that I was not even considered for a general certificate? In midst of beating myself down, I felt Mrs. Botha hugging me with excitement and everybody applauding as she ushered me to the front.

Lo and behold the adjudicator had a huge (A3) certificate in her hands. She handed it to me and said, “That was one of the most passionate speeches I have ever adjudicated. Keep up the good work.” My heart was filled with inexpressible joy.

Mrs Botha arranged for me to be presented with a Diploma certificate at Assembly. That was the turning point of my life. I was so excited and eager to do more.

Under the mentorship of Mrs Botha, I attained the following during my High School career:

• Diploma for public speaking (2000) at the Di konokono festival (National Eisteddfod Academy)
• Gold certificate for Poetry & Diploma for Dramatic Monologue (2001) at the Di konokono festival (National Eisteddfod Academy)
• Silver certificate for Bible prose and a Diploma for Dramatic Monologue and Poetry (2002) at the Di konokono festival (NEA)
• Diploma for Poetry, Public speaking and dramatic Monologue. Gold certificate for Bible Prose. (2003 & 2004) at the Di konokono festival.
• 2005 Gold Medalist NEA (National Eisteddfod Academy)
• Gold Medalist Best Male Performer 2001-2004 Ahmed Timol Secondary School
• 10 Director Awards(5 Medals and 5 Certificates) at the Segaruna D2 festival 2004
• 2 Director Awards at the Segaruna D2 festival 2005
• 7 gold medals 2 silver 1 bronze in athletics (Running)
• Certificate for Top Ten Mr. & Miss Kagiso 2000
• Runner up for Mr. & Miss Inter School Teen 2001
• Certificate and trophy for fundraising
• Several other certificates in Drama, Monologues, Dialogues, Poetry, Public Speaking and Storytelling
• MC at the 2005 Segaruna gala evening with the presence of Mr. Mkhize the district director of D2 Department of Education in Gauteng West Rand, alongside other officials of education including all teachers and principals of the D2 (West Rand schools)
I devoted my energy to my studies and the arts.

I was transformed from a problematic child to a graduate with BA Degree in Live Performance a Post Graduate with a PGC in Education. I am a mentor, a community leader, a loving husband and a great father, and most of all; I am a teacher and now an NEA adjudicator.