FORTUNATE Mancoba, Precious Tladi, Bhekumuzi Phala and Given Katelo of Ribane Laka High School represented the country at a young leadership programme in the US. With them is principal Martha Ngoma. Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
FOUR Grade 11 pupils at Ribane Laka High School in Mamelodi, Fortunate Mancoba, Precious Tladi, Bhekumuzi Phala and Given Ketelo, have returned from representing the country at the youth leadership programme in the US.

They had been selected by the US Mission to South Africa for the programme, which took place last month.

The Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Programme allowed 110 young leaders between the ages of 15 and 18 from across Africa to participate in three weeks of leadership and project management skills training in three different American cities.

It was due to their initial project, Eco-Green, that they were selected to represent the country. The team initiated a clean-up campaign with the goal to start a recycling initiative at their school.

However, once in the US they had to come up with a new project, and Ulwazi-Knowledge of Oasis was born.

Phala said with their initial project they wanted to ensure their school rendered a better learning area.

He said the school was mostly littered with plastics, and through the campaign, they set out to create a better and safer teaching and learning environment. “We will pass the initial campaign on to Grade 8 pupils for us to focus on the new one,” he said.

The pupils hope their new project would reduce the youth unemployment rate.

During their stay in America, the pupils said time management was a big deal. “There’s a saying that side which says that if you want to be on time, you must arrive before time because if you arrive on time, you are late,” Ketelo said.

Having to communicate with other leaders from other African countries was Tladi’s highlight of the three weeks she spent in the US. “Learning about different leadership skills stood out for me,” she said.

“It was really great to finally get to see that country; growing up we only know America in movies, but being there in person was out of this world.”

Mancoba said he admired how Americans marketed their country. “America is the same as South Africa; there are rich and poor people just like here, but until you get there, you think the country is only for the rich.

School principal Martha Ngoma said she was humbled by the energy, discipline and strength that the pupils had regardless of their circumstances. “These are opportunities we can’t take for granted, especially for us who were once not privileged to get such experiences.”

Their geography teacher and project co-ordinator Daniel Makobe said he was happy to see that their school project was already bearing fruit.