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ONE of South Africa's biggest public speaking competitions for public high school pupils is starting to receive the respect it deserves.
Politicians are attending and addressing Grades 11 and 12 pupils during the provincial and national finals of the Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards.
The awards (YCA) are the corporate social investment and responsibility activity of Anglo American.
KwaZulu-Natal legislature deputy speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu showed the greatest regard for the winners when he took time off his busy schedule to meet them.
He missed the first part of the launch of the new King Shaka International Airport, to encourage the contestants to take education seriously, find time to attend and learn from debates at the legislature and to strive to be ambassadors of excellence, leadership and patriotism.
This is a step in the right direction for theSowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation's youth development project.
For the Department of Education, it is not only a crucial youth-led public speaking campaign, but an ideal platform for Parliament's flagship project, Taking Parliament to the People.
Gauteng, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West have also offered their legislatures as venues for provincial contests. Tomorrow, the second provincial heat will be held at the Limpopo legislature in Lebowakgomo.
Provincial eliminations are preceded by workshops conducted by youthful public speaking and communication education and training group Munsa.
The workshops and the contests encourage youths to use prepared speeches and panel discussions to debate social, political and economic ills, challenges and come up with solutions.
All finalists receive participation certificates and the top three regional and national winners receive cash prizes.
The YCA encourages proficiency in English, a pioneering spirit , embracing nation-building, the preparation of future leaders for the professional working environment, the nurturing of assertiveness, confidence and focus among our young people.