Grade seven pupils Alexandra Breckenridge, Matthew Robbins, Emily Spencer and Sarah Herrington represented South Africa in the event, taking on teams from the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand. The annual event tests the literary knowledge of children between 10 and 13.
Wayne Mills, a New Zealand quizmaster and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, founded the quiz in 1991 to motivate youngsters to read more and see the activity as a type of sport. Mills wanted good readers to be rewarded and be celebrated by their schools, just like sporty children are.
Over the past 20 years the competition has grown into a popular annual event among youngsters in the different participating countries, with hundreds of teams vying for a chance to represent their nation in the final. Some 400 teams in the UK alone took part in the regional finals this year.
Teams have to get through 10 rounds of 10 questions in the regional finals. The questions cover a range of topics in children’s books, including weapons in literature and witches.
Bookstore Exclusive Books sponsored the competition in South Africa, offering cash prizes and book vouchers to each of the winning teams.
Manor Gardens principal Carol Lottering said the school’s teachers, pupils and parents were proud of the team.
“They have shown that there is some good in our education. You often hear negative things about education in this country, but here is a public school that has competed internationally and won.”
Competition organisers Kids Lit Quiz congratulated the young South Africans for their outstanding win.
“The South African team from Manor Gardens in Durban was comprehensively strong in all the categories and won this year's final emphatically,” it said in a statement.
The Durban school team won the contest with 51 points – which is 16 points clear of runners up Summit Heights Public School from Canada, with 35; and last year’s winners Cockermouth School from the UK, with 27 points.
Lottering said that the team which helped prepare the pupils for the competition as well as the school’s media centre teacher, Isobel Sobey, had a big role to play in their success.
“It was a joint effort by the teachers and parents, who worked together to assist the children. The teachers emphasise the importance of reading in the same way the parents do at home.”
The school’s Facebook page has been flooded with congratulatory messages since news broke of their triumph. South Africa’s Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was among the many who posted celebratory messages on the page. “You make the country proud,” she wrote.
The school has also written a message on Facebook on behalf of the team to thank all their supporters for the encouraging words.
“We are truly overwhelmed with the support and the lovely messages. Alex, Emily, Matthew and Sarah are absolutely thrilled with the response and thank their school friends, teachers and everyone who has followed the team on this momentous journey.”