How the ESU Changed my Life

Monday 09 May

There occur myriad undertakings in one’s life which one forgets the following week. Other episodes linger in one’s mind for a couple of months or so. Then, there remain those experiences which – hard as one tries – cannot be forgotten. To me, one such event is the ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest.

Actually, I cannot wipe out the competition from my memory for two reasons: first, I participated twice and, second, I never qualified for the finals! By now, you must be wondering who is writing this article. In fact, I first represented Bell Village SSS in 2008. The college was then a novice in such national competitions since it had newly been built. As such, I can still recall how reluctant I was to agree to the proposition of Miss Gheerdya Samputh – then Head of the English Department – to embark on such a lofty venture. I happened to be the youngest participant that year.

I was convinced that my second attempt in 2010 would be the successful one. Thus, I did not hesitate to embrace the opportunity Mr. Kevin Pather had offered to me. Although my time-table was already laden by my academic pursuit, I would not miss a once-in-a-lifetime occasion to represent the Royal College of Port Louis. My instinct proved wrong! Masculine intuition often fails, indeed. Nonetheless, at least I qualified for the semi-finals and my school mate – Zoubeir Joosub – proudly represented our esteemed school at the Finals.

The last two paragraphs may seem self-centred to many. Yet, they hold a universal truth: regardless the outcome of one’s endeavours, one demonstrates one’s maturity by humbly accepting the result. In fact, I admit that I was initially ashamed of my two successive shortcomings: never qualifying for the finals. In retrospect, I have no regrets though. Now, these words may sound like lame justifications; they are not. True, the genuine efforts I made were the best I could put in. No one can criticise such whole-hearted work.

In fact, I mustered enough courage to change one major thing: my negative attitude to my personal failings. In my mind, the ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest gradually emerged as a stepping stone! I focussed on the skills and qualities I had acquired on both attempts – self-confidence, maturity of thought, inter- and intra-personal aptitudes and many more. These attributes undeniably helped the Royal College Port Louis win the National Brainstrust Competition of the Rotary Club twice consecutively, in 2009 and 2010. Furthermore, they were tremendously useful to me as leader of our school winning-team at the Monetary Policy Challenge organised by the Bank of Mauritius.

Claiming that ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest solely assists in winning first prizes at other competitions would amount to an unforgivable injustice to the virtuous mission of the Contest. In truth, the past experience of the ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest comes in handy in other spheres of life too. As such, I have had the golden chance of shouldering the distinguished responsibility of Master of Ceremony in February, for the National Gala Show of the Spring Festival, and in March, on the National Day Celebrations at the Champ-de-Mars. Admittedly, I used a microphone on both occasions! Nevertheless, without first-hand experience at the ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest, I would never have been at ease on stage.

I sincerely hope that the unpretentious experience I have shared will make participants, supporters and readers contemplate the countless possibilities which stem from the ESU-Public-Speaking-Contest. Actually, my philosophy does not apply to the above-mentioned contest only. The English-Speaking Union (Mauritius) deserves heartfelt accolade and earnest support for being a catalyst of holistic development for the Mauritian youth. ‘Democratisation’ is a word very much in vogue these days. Together, let us hope that the life-changing opportunity given to a few lucky students will be extended to a greater number of Mauritian youngsters in the years to come.

Danny ONSIONG
Participant 2008, Semi-finalist 2010
Public Speaking Competition run by ESU-Mauritius