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Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Prize

The Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Prize is a part of the South African Department of Basic Education's ongoing commitment to encourage the study of oral history in South Africa. Started in 2005, the event is open to all learners between Grade 8 and Grade 11, and all history educators in secondary schools.1 The Department has partnered with South African History Online and the South African History Archive, making it possible for hundreds of learners to take part in the competition.2

Each year, eligible learners and educators compete first in regional competitions held in every province of South Africa. Learners are invited to participate in the regional selection process, which involves giving an oral presentation, as well as submitting a written portfolio. The portfolios are judged according to the criteria laid out for the competition. A panel of adjudicators, made up of historians, educators and heritage practitioners, select the top entries after a rigorous process of presentation and review. The selected entries go on to compete at the national competition.

look at the guidelines on how to successfully compete in the 2011 Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Competition.

Look at the guidelines on how to successfully compete in the 2010 Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Competition.

Read the 2010 draft circular to schools sent by the Department of Basic Education.

Read the adjudicators' final report on the 2009 Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Competition. 

Why participate in the competition?

Personal growth

The South African History Archive is proud to play a role in this valuable exercise, which emphasises the multiplicity of historical perspectives. We believe that the competition provides young South Africans with a unique opportunity to grapple with a challenging heritage pockmarked by violence, oppression and struggle, but also replete with stories of bravery, perseverance and reconciliation. In this sense, the oral history project is both a personal and academic exercise.

Developing research skills

Learners are given the chance to develop their skills of research analysis and interpretation, critical thinking, attention to detail and communication.4 This set of skills development is supported by the National Curriculum Statement, promoting the use of different historical sources, as well as more inclusive history education methods.

Social justice

The competition forms part of the Department of Basic Education's commitment to enhancing a culture of social cohesion, human rights and tolerance. Named after Nkosi Albert Luthuli, the title of the competition is "most appropriate."3 After becoming the head of the ANC in 1952, Luthuli was the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961. Luthuli's commitment to education has inspired many to develop an understanding and appreciation of South Africa's broad history, as well as the richness of the histories of their local communities.

Competition for learners

Learners will be expected to do TWO things:

  • Give an oral presentation or video documentary of his/her oral research to a panel of adjudicators (it is not intended to be a dramatic presntation nor poetry.)

  • Prepare a written portfolio

The project must be based on oral history research. Learners who fail to engage properly with the oral history methodology will be heavily penalised. Learners must acknowledge all sources used in their portfolios. Bibliographies should be included. Plagiarism will be heavily penalised.

Personal reflection

Evidence of personal reflection is a very important component of the oral history competition.The learner should be able to justify why the new information gained from the interview enriches his or her understanding of the past. This section can also include some reflection on the personal growth process enhanced by the oral history project. It can include a reflection on the overall value of oral history research in helping us to understand our past.

 Competition for educators

Three educators from each province will be selected to represent their province at the national event. Educators portfolios are expected to include their work plans. These should document how the learners were assisted in their choice of persons. It is advised that learners should interview at least three persons, and should be guided towards interviewing members of their own communities.

The final theme of 'Hear our History' provides enrichment for educators.


1 Phori, John. Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Competition: Celebrating noble values behind the life and times of the struggle icon,' Values in Education Subdirectorate, Bloemfontein Provincial Office, 2009

2 Denis, P. Introduction to Oral History Association, Oral History Association of South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2006-2007

3 Adjudicators' Report, Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' National Competition, University of Free State, Free State Province, 24-25 September 2009

4 Competition History and Frequently Asked Questions, Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Competition, South African History Online

 5 Draft Circular to Schools, Nkosi Albert Luthuli Young Historians' Award 2010, Department of Education




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