South Africa’s finest young minds to face off in UN-style debates

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South Africa’s finest young minds to face off in UN-style debates

Including once-in-a-lifetime experience of an overnight stay at Robben Island

Human rights and the environment will be the focus areas as local high school learners from throughout South Africa participate in the South African Model United Nations conference, to be held in Cape Town on 17 and 18 October 2014.

The South African Model United Nations (SAMUN), an Education Africa project in partnership with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Pretoria, was established 16 years ago and reaches more than 500 schools annually in all nine provinces.

During the national finals at the Cape Town Civic Centre, a team of four high school students, from each province will be assigned a specific country to represent in a simulated United Nations General Assembly-style debate on a globally relevant topic.

The country’s most gifted young debaters have already participated in provincial workshops and debates throughout South Africa (with the topic: “The humanitarian crisis in Syria: What can and should be done?”) to select the best debating team in each province.

They will now be heading to the national conference in Cape Town on 17 and 18 October. There, the sharpest young minds in South Africa will be challenged by debating the following two topics: “Weighing the economic benefits vs the environmental impact of fracking” and “State-sanctioned homophobia: Universal human rights vs state sovereignty”.

At these “special sessions” modelled along the lines of the UN General Assembly, the provincial teams will be tasked with persuasively advancing the policies of China, Nigeria, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States, Russia, Norway and India on these controversial issues. Debating teams from the rest of Africa and abroad have also been invited to compete.

After the finals, participants will have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of an overnight stay at Robben Island to explore the history of the island and South Africa’s transition to democracy. Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty will join the learners on Robben Island for the prize-giving luncheon.

Following the national finals, the best-performing South African provincial debating team and one learner from each of the remaining eight provinces will have the opportunity to travel to the United States to participate in the international Model United Nations conference. The skills of the students will be assessed by a panel comprising representatives of the United Nations and academia.

Education Africa is a non-profit organisation that promotes education as the key to unlocking economic prosperity. Education Africa’s operations director, Linda Gould, explains: “The beauty of the SAMUN programme is that it brings together resourced and under-resourced learners as well as educators on a single platform. This fosters social cohesion and shared learning. The programme imparts valuable life skills to the learners – such as tolerance, dialogue, negotiation skills and empathy. They also gain an awareness of international relations and human rights.”

Other partners in the SAMUN project include the Department of Basic Education, the South African Permanent Mission to the UN (New York), Robben Island And alumni of the SAMUN programme.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the debates, which are sure to be stimulating and thought provoking as South Africa’s most talented learners engage in a battle of wits. The debates take place on 17 and 18 October at the Cape Town Metropolitan Council, located at the Civic Centre, 12 Hertzog Boulevard, Cape Town.

For more information, visit:

Contact: Linda Gould

Operations Director: Education Africa

083 708 3591 or 011 685 7300

Twitter: Ed_Africa

Facebook www.facebook.com/EducationAfrica1992

Website www.educationafrica.com and www.samun.org

For media accreditation, interview requests and access to high res photos please contact media@jtcomms.co.za or (011) 788 7632 and speak to Dee’s