Jasmine Surif Wins Major International Poetry Prize

This term, a pupil in Shell (Year 9) received a great honour in an international poetry competition. On Thursday, 24th May, Jasmine Surif received the runner-up prize in the ‘Never Such Innocence’ competition. Jasmine flew to London to receive the award from General Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice Chief of Defence Staff, at the Guards Chapel in the Wellington Barracks.

“To commemorate the centenary of the Great War [WW1], Never Such Innocence was founded to give children an opportunity to pay tribute to those who were involved in the war through poetry and art.”

The competition was open to pupils from around the globe and was divided into Poetry, Art & Song-Writing sections, across three age categories. The competition received more than 6700 entries.

At Marlborough College Malaysia (MCM) a new unit of work was launched and every pupil in Shell undertook a study of ‘Protest Poetry’ in their English classes. As the assessment task for this unit, each pupil in Shell wrote an entry for this poetry competition. The poems reflected each pupil’s take on a persona affected by the war and made a protest of some kind. Jasmine’s poem took the perspective of a young woman left behind, while the male members of her family went to fight. Her persona longs to have the opportunity to join in the fight.

At the Senior School Assembly on 9th May, Jasmine’s achievement was recognised and her poem was read aloud to the Senior School by Jasmine’s classmate, Sophia Webber. We are very proud of Jasmine’s achievement and congratulate her on her wonderful writing. Below is Jasmine’s winning poem:

Am I Not
By Jasmine Surif

I am a woman, and I wish to serve

What difference does it make

If I am not a boy, a man, nor a husband?

“No,” they advise me,

“You must not fight!

It’s too risky for you,

Stay a housewife.”


Why is that so? Why should that be?

Am I weak? Am I fragile?

Am I not what my country needs?

Should women forge weapons, yet stay away

While men handle them, and succumb to the pain?


I am a woman, and I wish to serve

If a human has the right to live

The right to protect

The right to fight

So should I.

Because I’m human too,

Am I not?


Yet here I am

Oppressed, behind the frigid window bars

Watching, with a heavy heart,

As the footsteps of my beloved

On the dried, rusty leaves

Slowly fades away

As the foul balls of toxic rise into the air

As one by one, men of all nations lie     lifeless
On the once-green grass

As I bear the harrowing reality

That my loved ones are no more


Shattered and broken, I ponder once more

What difference I could have        made.
Instead of remaining and crafting the guns,

I’d have battled for justice, jubilant that we’ve won.


But here I am, alive.

Basking in the light of victory

Drowning in tears of misery

Because I am a woman.

Am I not?


James Unsworth
Head of English



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