Local high school wins big at Dubai eSports Festival

In an African first, four Grade 7 students from Centennial Schools took on local, continental and then international opponents to win the Minecraft Tournament at the Dubai Esports Festival (DEF) – a prestigious achievement in a fiercely contested space.

Centennial Schools founder Shaun Fuchs says that their investment and integration of gaming into the curriculum and the largest eSports arena of its kind in Africa has yielded phenomenal results for its students. Centennial Schools is in its second year of awarding eSports scholarships to high-performing students, with its recently concluded 2024 tournament placing its first young girl in the top three.

“Teaching gaming in schools helps students solve problems, think critically and collaborate and communicate. Gaming can be beneficial in supporting computing education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) subjects, and the development of business, digital and cyber skills, as well as digital literacy. With the backing of RGB Gaming, our students have been able to strategically plan, execute and game their way to victory against top schools in Africa and the Middle East, and we are incredibly proud of their accomplishment.”

Travis Faber, Zacree Wessels, Jamie Twidale and Thomas Williams started their winning streak by beating out the competition in a national tournament sponsored by RGB Gaming, a locally based eSports management and development company that supports the growth of eSports at school and post-Matric level. The Centennial team then went on to win against schools from six African countries in the RGB–partnered Redstone Royale Minecraft challenge.

In the background, RGB was working with DEF to bring African representation to the festival in Dubai for the first time. Here, the Centennial team competed against three other high schools from across the United Arab Emirates. The students’ prizes include several thousand rands of vouchers for a gaming shop in the Dubai Mall, plus clothing.

“Being a student at Centennial Schools has really helped me succeed in gaming. The supportive environment and the focus on balancing schoolwork with other activities have taught me how to manage my time and stay disciplined. The way the school encourages innovative thinking has also helped me develop the correct skills I need for gaming,” says Travis, a Grade 7 student.

As eSport grows, it is proving to be one of the most inclusive sports in schools, with students of all genders able to play on the same team, and from various social groups and demographics. Furthermore, eSports has been officially recognised as a ‘mind sport’ (in the same category as disciplines such as chess) by Mind Sports SA: a national governing body for all mind sports which has been officially recognised by an act of Parliament.

Fuchs says eSports promotes character development in the same way that traditional team-based activities and sports do. “Playing online games builds resilience and encourages risk-taking. Gaming pushes you to fail, try again, fail and try again. Our eSports curriculum is teaching our students how to win and lose with grace, just like any other school sport.”

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