WELVE young future politicians and nation builders will represent South Africa at the international Model United Nations conference in New York in April.

WELVE young future politicians and nation builders will represent South Africa at the international Model United Nations conference in New York in April.

They are Western Cape pupils Zahraa Samaai and Maida Shivhuri from De Kuilen High School and Cheval Mangaliso and Shanice van Wyk from Ravensmead Secondary School.

The others are 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 and 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.

They earned their stripes in the South African Model United Nations National Conference, which was held in Cape Town and on Robben Island in October 2009.

The conference also featured pupils from the UK, US and Kenya. A total of 64 pupils took part in UN General Assembly format debates at the Cape Town Metropolitan Chambers over two days.

Essentially, at the 12th annual Education Africa and MTN-organised and sponsored SA Model UN conference last October, four high school pupils from London represented Italy to victory.

They are Basma Belfadil, Vita Luta, Kareem Frances and Kwaku Darwali of St Georges High School.

The second best team was Western Cape pupils Zahraa Samaai and Maida Shivhuri, Cheval Mangaliso and Shanice van Wyk, who represented North Korea.

Gauteng pupils who represented China came third. 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.

Both the Model UN South Africa and the international version are debating conferences designed to nurture future nation-building focused politicians.

They are modelled around UN General Assembly debates, focusing on ordinary and even extraordinary international relations and human rights issues.

The debates are an exercise in communication skills development such as the written preparation of arguments, oral presentations, negotiation skills, arriving at working compromises and ambassadorial skills.

Significantly, most if not all of these skills are essential for the world of work and give the participants an understanding of international politics and their own countries' place in the social, political, and economical global arena.

The South African Model UN was first held in 1995 as part of the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations. Following the conference, a group of delegates accompanied former president Nelson Mandela on his trip to New York for the UN' 50th anniversary celebrations.

In 1998, The South African Model UN (formerly known as The Model United Nations General Assembly Conference for South African High Schools) was revived by Education Africa and the UN under the direction of the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation.

It now plays host to more than 500 schools throughout South Africa.

lSowetan's father of nation-building, Aggrey Klaaste, was inaugural chairman of the nonprofit-making organisation Education Africa'-

He has been succeeded by businesswoman Angie Makwetla. Sowetan nation building manager Victor Mecoamere is among Education Africa's trustees.