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No prize money in Atem

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The Association of the Teaching of English in Malawi (Atem) grand finale was held on Saturday at Likuni Boys Secondary School in Lilongwe where nine schools from the three regions battled it out.

The secondary schools that made it through to the finale following the regional finals are Mzuzu Government, Ekwendeni Girls and Katoto from the Northern Region, Hope Green Light, Tsabango CDSS and the host from the Central Region with Our Lady of Wisdom, St Patricks and Zomba Catholic from the Southern Region.

But at the end of the battle which started late in the afternoon and spilled over to the early hours of Sunday St Patricks came first with their production Too Late for Tears while Hope Green Light and Tsabango were second and third respectively with their plays The Verdict and Thembisile.

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Tsabango last year’s winners failed to defend the title and only managed to come third while Likuni Boys failed to utilise home ground advantage coming fourth with their piece Tearing the Veil.

Unlike last year and the previous years when schools received prize money, this year there was no prize money.

For all their sweat in putting up different productions which included exciting costumes and props, schools only received certificates of recognition.

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Actors and actresses who displayed immense talent also received nothing to motivate them.

Atem President Fanuel Mapira could not hide his disappointment with the lack of prize money during the final. He however, said they had no choice but to run it without funding.

“We tried to source for funding but we could not and so we could not stop the finale as this was the only period the schools were free. We went ahead because the schools agreed that it was okay to hold the finale without funding and so this was all about pride,” said Mapira.

He said Atem has been there for years and has helped shape students in terms of bringing confidence, speaking English and unearthing drama talent and yet companies have failed to come in and support them.

“We are thankful to companies which have come out in the past years to support us and we don’t take their support for granted. But this year it has not been that good and despite writing proposals we received nothing,” said Mapira.

He said they will continue to host Atem despite the frustrations of funding and called upon the corporate world and the government to help them.

“Many actors and actresses doing well in different drama groups have come through Atem. There is so much talent and I wish companies took time to watch the competition. Sometimes its not all about contributing money but even materials which can motivate the schools,” he said.

Atem this year also happened on the same day with National Schools Arts Festival (Nasfest) which is organised by Light of Youth Creative Organisation (Lyco) and sponsored by Art House whose owner is visual artist Elson Kambalu.

Nasfest was held at Lilongwe Town Hall just a few kilometres from Likuni Boys.

Through the plays, the schools tackled different issues ranging from corruption, albino killings, women empowerment and defilement.

The Best Actor was Sam Nyirenda from Katoto Secondary School while the Best Actress was Salomy Kalua from Ekwendeni Girls Secondary.

Apart from coming out top, St Patricks from Chiradzulu also claimed the Best Costume and Best Coordinated group while the Best Script accolade went to Katoto Secondary School.

The judges of the competition included former National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) President Ian Chitsekula.

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