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The past two weekends saw 30 young gamers battle it out in the hopes of winning the first of three eSport school scholarships ever to be awarded in South Africa.

Centennial Schools, leaders in integrating eSports skills into their education system, launched the competition at the start of the year and drew a stellar field of entrants.

The finale took place on Saturday, 11 March with the students being put through their gaming paces to get to the final round.

The final round saw the prospective winners play Minecraft at the school’s eSports centre, administered and observed by RGB gaming.

Grade 6 student, Thomas Williams won the first eSports competition on the continent and a scholarship to Centennial Schools valued at R300 000.

Jordan Harris, a grade 8 and existing Centennial Schools student, took second place, while grade 8 gamer, Oluseeni Olusa placed third, both walking away with R200 000 and R150 000 worth of scholarships and prizes respectively from leading gaming brand Cooler Master, and gaming hardware provider Asus.

Nkuli Gamede, Principal of Centennials School, said the competition was closely fought by very talented gamers who have bright futures ahead of them.

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“This is the first time a competition like this has been held in South Africa and it certainly was a tough competition. We were pleasantly surprised at the calibre and variety of gamers who entered the competition, and these gamers have set the benchmark for what we can expect in the local gaming scene in future. eSports is an inclusive sport compared to many others, with boys and girls able to play on the same teams and participants coming from various social groups and demographics,” Gamede said.

“I gave my absolute best during the competition, and pushed myself to not give up. The competition was challenging, but I enjoyed every minute, and feel that I am leaving a more experienced gamer,” said 12-year-old Thomas Williams. “My grandfather used to hide barrels from me when I was young, so perhaps that gave me a slight edge in Minecraft. I am super excited to start my scholarship at Centennial Schools.”

Founder and CEO of Centennial Schools, Shaun Fuchs, explains the reasoning behind the competition: “eSports is incorporated into our re-imagined approach to education as it teaches students valuable skills beyond the classroom.”

Not only is eSports a fun way of learning, Fuchs says, but research shows that children who play videos games have a much better chance of navigating through complex psychological issues compared to those that do not actively participate in video games.

In addition, playing video games can make students keener and more employable across a wider spectrum of careers including medical fields, engineering, remote flying, and computer sciences.

“eSports can boost children’s strategic thinking, teamwork, communication, leadership, performance skills and confidence building,” Fuchs says.

The scholarships are in partnership with BRUSA Sports, an organisation which assists aspiring young athletes to get hold of scholarships in the USA.

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