The Jeppe Writing Society has only been going for one year, and the Covid-19 pandemic made that a much-disrupted one, but a lot of good work has been done, and the inclusion of contributions by two of its members in an anthology on gender-based violence to appear in May is a highlight of that first year.
The book will be published by the SA Schools Debating Society and the Centre for Sexuality, Aids and Gender and Brian Ngoma and Lathitha Mendrew have had their entries into a competition launched in December last year accepted for publication.
Brian, who is matric this year, explained that through the society, they attended an online writing workshop at which entries were called for. Brian entered an opinion essay called “I think I’m supposed to hate you” which looks at the tendency of many to selectively apply the biblical commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. “Many people who call themselves Christians are prepared to follow that, but only if they approve of their neighbours. They believe they are exempt from it if they disapprove,” Brian said.
His essay relates this to misogyny, homophobia and gender-based violence and he argues that following that commandment literally would mean an end to those things.
Lathitha was only in grade 8 when he submitted a poem called “Gender-based violence, the silent pandemic”. It describes a conversation with a female friend in which they talk about the Covid-19 pandemic. She tells him that there is actually another pandemic on the go, gender-based violence, and it’s one that no-one talks about.
Brian explained that the next step is editing and tweaking their writing. “We are given the chance to make changes and try to improve our work before it is professionally edited to go into the book,” he said. Lathitha explained that the editing process incudes a peer review process – they are divided into groups and he will be given the chance to comment on some of the other poems that will be published. “You don’t have to accept all the suggestions made about your work, but I think it will be interesting to see what the other poets think,” he said.
Mrs Robyn Riskowitz, the teacher in charge of the Writing Society, is proud of the two boys. “Brian works hard and his writing has shown big improvement,” she said. “Lathitha was only in grade 8 when he wrote that poem. He is very talented and has written a number of other amazing poems.”
The Writing Society meets once a week – mostly online last year – as a platform on which the boys can express themselves creatively, Mrs Riskowitz said. “We encourage them to experiment and to speak to each other as they develop their writing styles. The disruptions last year curtailed our activities, and the growth of the club, we are hoping for a better 2021.”
The school is delighted to have boys with so many diverse talents in its ranks. Our brilliant writers are part of that.