Grade 12 Epworth pupil, Faye Crawford, placed first in this year’s prestigious De Beers national English Olympiad, which was written by almost 4000 pupils, representing 240 schools, from across South Africa.
Faye’s prize was R33 000, a year’s tuition fees at Rhodes University, as well as free access to the Grahamstown Online Festival. She achieved a diamond certificate, which is awarded to those pupils who attain 90% and above.
Head of English at Epworth, Jennie Pratsch, describes Faye’s achievement as “incredible” and said, “this is the highest award an Epworth pupil has ever received.”
Principal of the High School, Tracey Munro, said: “Faye is a remarkable young person; she is able to make her achievements in this olympiad, her schoolwork and as an SA debater look so easy, whilst participating in sport, performing arts, and community engagement initiatives. Of course she is talented, but hard work, good planning and a calm temperament are necessary to achieve at Faye’s standard. And to top it off, she is a truly lovely person with a natural flair for leadership.”
Faye is over the moon about her first place and is feeling quite overwhelmed and shocked – “I’m still not sure that it has settled in…I really hadn’t expected this at all”, she explained.
“I first heard about the results from a friend. I was working and had picked up my phone to check the time when I saw about a hundred missed calls and messages from him. Thinking that something terrible had happened, I immediately phoned him back and he started screaming words like “first” and “English” and “Olympiad”. When I figured out what he was saying, I didn’t believe him! I had to go onto the Olympiad website and see for myself before I realised he was telling the truth,” said Faye.
She added, “I’ve received congratulations from just about everybody I know, and that’s been incredibly touching. I feel very loved and supported, which is perhaps the most rewarding part of the whole experience.”
Faye, who is a member of this year’s South African debating team – she is the only female in the team and the first female to make Team SA from KZN in 10 years – plans to spend next year travelling and volunteering before settling down at university to study the humanities.
The English Olympiad, which is open to all pupils in Grades 9 to 12 in the year in which the exam is written, started in 1976 and is organised jointly by the Grahamstown Foundation and the South African Council for English Education (SACEE).
It takes the form of an open book exam with every candidate receiving an anthology and a study guide. The 2021 theme was “People and Personas” and the prescribed anthology was titled “This is My Story”. Candidates enjoyed a short selection of interesting writings that included poetry, prose and a dramatic monologue.
According to the Olympiad organisers, “the syllabus and examination questions offer stimulation not found within the school syllabus. They call for acute critical ability and sharp writing skills, but they also seek to draw out creative thinking and writing…Those candidates who are prepared to take a risk and answer the more challenging questions in an unusual and creative way, are usually the candidates who excel in the exam”.