Pupils in war of wits
TV show ‘Genius’ is in its final stages and only a few teams have made it. Youth Day delight at Lavender Hill Sad past gives birth to insightful theatre
THOUSANDS of kids from all over the country enter, but only one team will come out on top.
That might sound like something an announcer at a teenage fight club might say, but here it applies to the contestants of Nickelodeon’s national quiz show, Genius.
Hosted by actress/comedian Lihle Msimang, and model/ actor Thapelo Hlophe, Genius ASPIRING rapper Khaseef Sachnary, 18, was delighted to see smiling Lavender Hill youths socialise with one another and network with their peers from Steenberg and Retreat on Youth Day.
This happened on June 16, when the City’s Recreation and Parks Department gathered youngsters from the three communities and pitted them against one another in an array of sports challenges.
For Sachnary and other youngsters in the area, this was a rare event but one they’d like to see the City host more often. “The atmosphere was very pleasant. I’ve never seen Lavender Hill youngsters so happy and chatty,” said Sachnary, who performed his song, The Dopest, after playing in a soccer match at the event.
“The event helped take my mind off things like the taxi and gang violence,” he said.
Kaydin Stuart, 17, of Lavender Hill,who played soccer and table tennis at the event, said the City should bring similar events to the community on weekends.
“That’s the only way they can save us right now. The feel- is a quiz show that pits high school pupils from across the country in an intense battle of wits. It covers subjects such as physics, algebra, calculus and life sciences (biology).
Thousands of kids entered, but only 16 teams qualified for the final stages. The show began in mid-February and is nearing its end.
The Spontaneous Combustion team from Curro Durbanville Independent School has ing I had that day is nothing like what I feel every day. It wasn’t like anything I feel in the streets.
“Lavender Hill is really dangerous, you can’t even go to the shop on your own,” Kaydin said.
JP Smith, Mayco member for safety, security and social services, said the City had aimed to make Youth Day one to be cherished by young people from Lavender Hill, Retreat and Steenberg, with a range of activities, from swimming to karate.
“The festivities were set to take place in an open space in Lavender Hill, but were moved to the Retreat Pool because of recent shootings and gang violence.
It is a reality that often children in gang-afflicted areas are robbed of enjoying sport and recreation, due to threat of violence in their neighbourhood,” he said.
“As far as possible, the department works with communities and local police and law enforcement to provide safe spaces for fun and learning, as well as being flexible in how and where recreational activities are delivered to ensure the safety of participants.” made it to the semi-finals.
The team consists of three Grade 11 pupils – Dantelle Joubert, 17, Ralph McDougall, 16, and Joanie Thom, 16.
Dantelle said they never expected to make it so far into the competition.
“I was the motivated one in the team and even though I kept telling them we would make it, I didn’t really believe we would make it this far.”
According to Ralph, the IT BEGAN as a few drama classes at Noordgesig High School in Joburg, where Tshabalira Lebakeng would direct only the most die-hard theatre kids in the school’s passion projects.
Five years later, Lebakeng’s group of dedicated performers has blossomed into a theatre group that not only helps protect at-risk youth in the area, but has also produced a show that will be heading down to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival next month.
The Ngizwe (“hear me”) Youth Theatre team sees its young stars develop their own stories into working productions, but the one that will be performed in Grahamstown this year has been a deeply personal affair for Lebakeng.
While the troupe has added its own flavour and stories to The Little One, the piece was inspired mainly by Lebakeng’s childhood struggle to survive in the streets of Durban for two years, after he was abandoned by his mother and her new boyfriend.
“My mother chose him over journey has been tough.
“It’s always intimidating going against big schools. Some of the questions are very difficult and I think we get very lucky at times.”
Joanie said being on TV was very different to answering questions in an exam.
“You have to think on your feet and listen really carefully. It’s harder to remain focused,” she said.
Joanie said a teacher from me. I remember he told me that I would ‘have to hustle’. I didn’t know what that meant, but I couldn’t go back home.
“In the first month in the streets, you’re trying to learn the concept of the streets.
“You can’t go to any rubbish bin, there are rules.”
Despite the occasional turf war over rubbish bins, Lebakeng remembers how the groups of homeless children were tightly knit.
They would help each other stay clean, washing together their school had travelled with them. Ralph said it was stressful being on a TV show: “The lights get really hot and it takes quite a long time to set everything up, but you learn to come out of your shell and it lets you appreciate how much effort goes into big TV shows.”
Joanie said: “I am so close. I am just going to give it my all.”
Genius airs on NickToons, DStv channel 308, Fridays at 2.45pm CAT. and pooling their resources so they would look “presentable”.
“Because we still had hope. Maybe one day I can find someone who will come and say: ‘let me adopt you’.
“They don’t want dirty mosquitoes. I wanted to be a neat and tidy boy, a clean boy, so a Good Samaritan would adopt me.”
It was only after two years and on the brink of starvation that he returned to his mother, who then palmed him off on a family friend.
“She had negotiated with another domestic worker from a rural area to take me.”
Desperately unhappy with his “new, horrible family”, he begged his mother for help and she agreed to send him to his maternal family in the Eastern Cape, where his outlook finally improved.
It was only years later, as a young adult, that Lebakeng met his biological father and found what he calls his “true home”.
“My biggest achievement is working with these kids.”
Emma Delius, Ngizwe’s creative director, and her mother, Harriet Perlman, a writer and producer, has been Lebakeng’s mentor for years, and served as co-writer and producer.
As The Little Ones is aimed at a young audience, Ngizwe is giving away tickets to child-focused NGOs, organisations and schools that would like their pupils to attend the performances on July 2 and 3 at the Rehearsal Room in Grahamstown.
For any interested groups, please contact emmadelius@ ngizwe.co.za or visit www.facebook.com/ngizweyouththeatre and ngizwe.co.za.
Lead actress Thembelihle Hadebe and members of the Ngizwe (‘hear me’) Youth Theatre group rehearse for The Little One at the Noordgesig Community Hall.
Joanie Thom, Dantelle Joubert and Ralph McDougall of Curro Durbanville Independent School have reached the semifinals of Genius.
About 250 young people from mostly Lavender Hill, Retreat and Steenberg took part in Youth Day events.
Tshabalira Lebakeng, founder of the Ngizwe Youth Theatre with creative director Emma Delius.