Pomp, colour as Embu pupil bags international writing competition top prize

Claire Gakii was joined her colleagues at Lions School Embu on Friday after winning the top prize during the Universal Postal Union’s 52nd International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People. [Timothy Kariuki, Standard]

It was pomp and colour as pupils and teachers of Lions School Embu welcomed 13-year-old Claire Gakii who emerged top during the Universal Postal Union’s 52nd International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People.

Claire, a Grade Seven pupil, beat 1.7 million entrants from 35 countries to win the top prize.

The contestants were all below the age of 15.

Claire received her award on October 5 in Riyadh, Saud Arabia, during the closing plenary of the UPU’s fourth Extraordinary Congress, and ahead of World Post Day.

The competition was staged in collaboration with the United Nations Road Safety Fund where the pupils had been asked to write a letter to someone explaining to the superpowers they would need to achieve their mission of making roads safe for all children.

Speaking at the school, Claire said she started writing essays at the age of nine. Since then, she has been working to perfect the art. It culminated in the award.

She said she has also written storybooks, essays and compositions.

The girl said she is happy to have emerged as the best in the competition, beating rivals from all over the world.

A banner at Lions School Embu to celebrate Claire Gakii's victory. [Timothy Kariuki, Standard]

In her letter, Claire proposed that there is a need for the installation of robots which can be used to control traffic since most of the roads do not have traffic lights. At the same time, there is hardly anyone to help in stopping vehicles for children to cross the roads.

She says people lose their lives during accidents she attributes majorly to human error.

“Thus, the need for proper sensitisation to ensure traffic rules and regulations are followed,” according to Claire in her letter.

Claire was taken around Embu town and its environs as residents celebrated the achievement.

Her teacher Millicent Kagwiria said that the pupil is very passionate about writing. She said she has been guiding and advising her to continue writing and inspire others.

Speaking at the awarding ceremony, UPU Director General Masahiko Metoki said: “As many of our young writers highlighted, we cannot rely on supernatural powers to ensure safe roads… Claire’s superpowers are, in fact, actions that even regular people can take. She highlights that, by working together with children through training and education, community engagement and policymaking, we can achieve our critical collective mission.”

Second in the international competition was Matilde Magalhães Da Silva, 11, from Portugal, while 12-year-old Dao Khuong Duy from Vietnam took third place.

Special mentions went to young writers from Brazil, Cyprus, India, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Describing her superpowers in her letter, Claire wrote: “I will work hand in hand with road safety officers to train children on road usage and the purposes of pedestrian walkways; I will develop policies to protect children and ensure that they are properly displayed and implemented. […] I believe that if we all work together, we can make a difference in the lives of children and help to prevent accidents on the road.”

Submissions to the global round of the competition were judged by an international jury, convened by the UPU, whose members included Agostina Massarini, Communications Officer at International Road Federation, Jon Cerezo Abeijon, who is the Partnership and Public Information Officer at the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and Annie Hammenrudh, the Programme Management Officer, UN Department for Safety and Security.

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