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Plain speaking success


Two Afghani students from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College have been acknowledged for their ‘boldness, curiosity and bravery’ following their success at the recent State final of the Plain English Speaking Awards (PESA).

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While the students did not win the competition – but placed a commendable second and fourth – the college said it was particularly proud of their efforts as they are both from an Afghani background and speak English as their second language.

“At OLSH College we encourage students to participate in public speaking as a co-curricular activity as it is an excellent opportunity for students to build self-confidence and communication skills, and prepare and deliver engaging speeches,” said deputy principal Dr Sue Knight.

“It is a great platform for girls to share their own informed opinions, based on research. Students this year have commented on how empowered they have felt from the experience.

“We are very proud of our students for showing boldness, curiosity and bravery in taking part in the competition.”

PESA aims to encourage and maintain the best use of clear and effective spoken English. The awards were first held in Victoria in 1977 and have since become a national competition, with the winner representing Australia at the international final in London. Over the years OLSH has had several participants and three national winners – Chantal Baldwin, 2003; Claire Weekley, 2004; and Clare Holmes, 2006.

This year, Somayeh Ahmadi (who placed fourth of the seven finalists) and Hamidah Karimi (second) represented the school at the State final held at Legacy House in Adelaide on July 26.

Somayeh is in Year 12 and speaks Hazaragi as her main language. She said it had always been her dream to tackle public speaking and her topic for the final was ‘A Modern Epidemic’.

“This dream gave me a voice and the ability to express myself about the issues we face in society. I would love to encourage other girls to step up and have the confidence to be themselves through public speaking and they will learn great leadership and skills as a speaker,” she said.

Although born in Australia, Year 10 student Hamidah is from an Afghani family and her first language is Farsi. Her topic for the final was ‘The Loneliness Epidemic’.

Dr Knight said the outstanding efforts of the two students was in part due to the “exceptional work and commitment” of Colleen Litchfield, a former teacher at the college who has continued to volunteer as a coach for students involved with public speaking.


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