THREE winners emerged when 12 high school pupils competed for the 2010 Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards in the North West legislature in Mmabatho at the weekend.
But apparently all the teachers, parents, friends and relatives were oblivious to the most important educational tool being used during the contest to nurture SA's future leaders - role playing, commonly known as an interactive drama in education, a method of unravelling issues in complex social situations.
Before Dineo Ratshwene, Tsholofelo Sebolao and Precious Letsebe took top honours, the judges had to listen to 12 prepared speeches on topics that included money versus happiness, human trafficking, racism, cruelty to animals, homosexuality and abuse.
Then the adjudicators had to follow a parliamentary or legislature-type debate that replaced impromptu two-minute talks on randomly-chosen words.
The Department of Education is a third crucial partner of this vital public speaking education, training and development programme that has moved contestants into provincial legislatures, where local politicians hosted and addressed the youths.
This also boosts Parliament's flagship public involvement programme - dubbed Taking Parliament to the People - unfolding in part through the Young Communicators Awards' provincial heats being hosted in legislatures of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and Gauteng this year.
During the debates the teenagers assume the roles of opposing political party representatives, debating issues including the economical benefits of the World Cup and SA's democracy negatives and positives.
Primarily, role playing helps candidates to muster problem-solving, helps them to articulate or communicate opinions, feelings and state positions better or more effectively; and helps to enhance candidates' self-awareness.
Among the other benefits of role playing - or the art of learning and teaching from doing, instead of relying on theory - is in heightened levels of confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness.
It also fosters creativity, teaches problem-solving, encourages teamwork, nurtures smart thinkers, analytical thinkers and helps candidates to take a fresh look at life's numerous posers.