FOUR high school pupils from London represented Italy to victory in the South African Model United Nations National Conference in Cape Town and on Robben Island at the weekend.
Basma Belfadil, Vita Luta, Kareem Frances and Kwaku Darwali of St Georges High School shone during the 12th annual Education Africa and MTN-organised and sponsored showcase of public speaking and general knowledge skills in politics.
It featured pupils from the UK, US, Kenya and South Africa.
They were addressed by MTN South Africa Foundation chairperson Njabulo Ndebele, Deputy Education Minister Enver Surty and businessman Lungi Sisulu, who is one of the sons of ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu.
The leaders highlighted the importance of education, literacy, debate, negotiation and compromise as the best tools of conflict-resolution.
High level research capabilities stood out as the pupils tackled debates which included global responsibility towards failed states, developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, and an emergency session on how the UN member states were supposed to deal with the H1N1 Virus or swine flu.
Team work, improvisation and focus also shone throughout the interactions.
A total of 64 pupils took part in UN General Assembly format debates at the Cape Town Metropolitan Chambers over two days.
This was followed on the third day by a role play workshop which involved the youths experiencing just a small part of what political detainees went through in the belly of the prison boats, tiny cells, solitary confinement, terrible censorship and punishing labour drills.
Highlights included sightings of former president Nelson Mandela and Pan Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe's tiny cells.
Winners were announced on the the fourth day, which coincided with the commemoration of the October 19 banning of newspapers including Sowetan's predecessors - World and Weekend World - as well as journalists, political activists and organisations.
The second best teams were Western Cape pupils Zahraa Samaai and Maida Shivhuri from De Kuilen High School and Cheval Mangaliso and Shanice van Wyk from Ravensmead Secondary School, who represented North Korea.
Gauteng pupils, who represented China, came third and they were Andile Masango and Tony Masubelele from Willowridge High School and Faith Mamphoka and Carissa Naidoo from Lehlabile High School.
Three best speakers from the contest are Kwaku Darkwali from the UK, Raphael William Gray from the City of London School, and Andile Masango from Willowridge High School in Gauteng.
The overall winners and the second-placed winners are to be joined at the international Model United Nations conference in New York in April 2010 by merit award winners Peet van Staden of Penryn College in Mpumalanga, Carissa Naidoo of Lehlabile High School in Mpumalanga, Philile Makhanya of Reunion Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal, Prudence Britz of Northern Cape High School in Northern Cape, Moleboheng Tsomole of Kgola Thuto Secondary School in Free State, Tshenolo Maape of Golview Combined School in North West, Siphesihle Mahajana of Merrifield College in Eastern Cape and Kgothatso Mampa of Pepps High School in Limpopo.