Duchess of Cornwall Wikimedia Commons

South African teen wins Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition

17-year-old Inessa Rajah’s moving short story inspired by refugee car guards has won her high acclaim.

Duchess of Cornwall Wikimedia Commons

Inessa Rajah of Durban, South Africa, beat 13,500 entries spanning the five regions of the Commonwealth to win the senior division of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2016, the world’s oldest international schools writing competition.

The 17-year-old’s winning short story, Dr Congo-man, is inspired by refugee car guards who work at a nearby shopping mall.

Her short story explores the difficulty of holding an entitled position in the face of poverty and conflict-induced resettlement. The piece grapples with the reconciliation and embarrassment of social status.

Inessa Rajah
Inessa Rajah

Rajah is deputy head girl at Durban Girls’ College and is set to matriculate this year.

However, she may miss the special awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London next month, where HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is set to present the Winners and Runners-up with their certificates on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.

According to Times Live, Rajah is scheduled to sit her final matric exams at the time of the visit.

“We will have to write to the society or possibly contact the Independent Examinations Board,” she told the publication.

Entries were assessed by a pan-Commonwealth body of judges, drawn from more than 30 different countries across the globe. Judges described the entries as ‘inspirational’, ‘ambitious’, ‘profound’, ‘moving’, ‘imaginative’ and stated that ‘the future of the Commonwealth is bright’.

The senior runner-up is Esther Mugalaba, 19, from Lusaka, Zambia. The Junior Winner and Runner-up, Gauri Kumar, 13, and Tan Wan Gee, 14, respectively, are both Singaporean nationals.

Read Rajah’s winning short story: Dr Congo-man