HE SAT back, smiled frequently and applauded each time tomorrow's leaders made a poignant observation about South Africa's political, social or economic canvas.
Eastern Cape education MEC Mahlubandile Qwase was even more accommodating when the contestants in the Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards moved from their prepared speeches to the panel discussions aptly tagged "In Conversation With South Africa's Future Leaders".
This section of the awards challenged the Grade 11 and 12 pupils to advise Qwase on how to improve the education system in his province.
The contestants were Lona Dazana, Sineke Mbali, Mati Ndlovu, Pateka Ngantweni, Nushrat Malick, Palesa Letsoha, Linjalo Njaba, Wendy Magwentshu, Bonolo Cebe, Lisa Dondashe, Mzwamadoda Meje and Andile Nodada.
They all decried poor resources and facilities and inadequate student support materials .
Qwase was urged to pay teachers more and to recruit more staff for rural areas. They discussed the right times for teachers' refresher courses, particularly on teaching of the finer points of outcome-based education.
Some of the participants called for more active parental involvement and support .
Qwase lauded the courage, eloquence and budding maturity of the students and assured them all that he had taken note and would implement their input.
Senior provincial education department officials serve as coordinators.
This youth development project is one of Anglo American's corporate social responsibility projects and a part of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation's youth motivation activities.