Niël, a SAMUN student inspired by his mother

This post is written by Mami, a South Africa Model United Nations (SAMUN) 2016 student. She is profiling the 2016 SAMUN experience and sharing stories of her peers. This post features Niël Carlson.

“I am trusting God to open big doors in 2017 and 2018.”

Completing a medical degree (MBcHB) aNiel.jpgt the University of Stellenbosch is what reminds Niël Carlson, age 17, to keep preserving through all situations.

“Always work hard, to be successful. Always work hard, to be what you desire. We all have dreams, be it big or small. In order to achieve these dreams, hard work and sacrifice are essential.”

The young, promising future SAMUN tutor was filled with nerves, thrills and disbelief when he was announced as one of the eight debaters that would represent their province in New York City.

Niël’s biggest motivation is and will always be his mother. A woman who against all odds wrote her Matric. Believing in the value of a good education, she kept studying. Now she is the Executive Director of the very same company she worked as a secretary.

Hard work, hard work and more hard work has kept this young man going. S.A van Wyk High School has provided South Africa and the world at large with leader who is humble in nature and is not afraid to do the tough job.

He has a goal and no man can stop him. World watch out!

Thabo, a SAMUN student ahead of his years

This post is written by Mami, a South Africa Model United Nations (SAMUN) 2016 student. She is profiling the 2016 SAMUN experience and sharing stories of her peers. This post features Thabo Rathaba.  


  • Speaker of office at the local junior council
  • Junior Cluster Commander for SAPS
  • An RCL Executive who is currently in his final year in high school at Leseding Technical Secondary school
  • Just 15 years old


With a bright future and an eye for the stars, Thabo is just an example of the mass of young people who know and understand the term “hard work.”

“The level of knowledge that one can obtain intrigues me,” Thabo says. Being intellectually challenged to make wise decisions is what kept him going in one of South Africa most prestige debate competition, SAMUN.

Thus, when asked what he wants the whole world to know about him he says:

“Learners my age are in grade 9. I am hardworking and am going to be on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Thabo has a dream, a dream with a deadline, a dream that highlights the importance of serving and protecting our world peace and advancement. He wants to fulfill his duties as a global citizen.

Thabo says,

“For a conducive global environment, countries need to work together even if it means working with the enemy.”

Remember when a person dreams there are no limits. Thabo Kelly Rathabo defines the every essence of having a vision.

Vusi, a SAMUN student filled with purpose

This post is written by Mami, a South Africa Model United Nations (SAMUN) 2016 student. She is profiling the 2016 SAMUN experience and sharing stories of her peers. This post features Vusi from the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. She is a student at Ridge Park College.






The girl with a humor that outshines her fierce outlook on politics. When asked about her views on debate, she left no rock unturned:

“Debating just makes me happy because it indirectly trains me to work cohesively with others. It inspires consensus building aimed at bettering our society.”

These words come warmly from “Mama Africa”, a name she proudly wears after winning the hearts of every debate member of SAMUN.

The presence of a tomorrow drives Vusi:

“I don’t know what it is but the fact that I get up and see meaning every morning in my life is a reason to go out there and fulfill my purpose.”

This young lady, who has a great passion for food, is currently in her final high school year with a vision to The University of Cape Town to study Political Science or Law. She hopes to be a leader in law in South Africa and across the globe.

Vusi is your average young lady with above average purpose.

SAMUN through the eyes of Mami

This post is written by Mami, a South Africa Model United Nations (SAMUN) 2016 student. She is profiling the 2016 SAMUN experience and sharing stories of her peers.

When writing about my fellow delegates I know we are intrigued by knowledge, motivated by the smile of an orphan and inspired by the love of a mother. Thus, do the youth of our nation lack motivation or zeal to dare dream of a better tomorrow?

SAMUN brought together over 30 young minds. Minds that questioned policies, highlighted the importance of a united front, not only in Africa but in the world at large and minds that gave path to proactive solutions to global issues.


The team representing the USA debates at the national conference in July.

A platform has been laid, a platform that enables young people to aspire to a goal, no matter the background. There is an inevitable growth in our young minds. Growth that changes ideologies, economies and limits in society.

It is time to make known to the world that prosperity, change and global development lays in the hands of the youth.

The world belongs to those who can vision a tomorrow.

Follow along for stories about other SAMUN delegates through my eyes!


Meet Mami, a SAMUN student & guest blogger!

To bring you an inside view of our South Africa Model United Nations (SAMUN) program, our new blog series will be written by Mami Bizimana, a 2016 SAMUN delegate from the Gauteng province. While others enjoyed their December breaks, Mami worked with the Education Africa team to interview her peers to share their stories and honor their potential.

Mami was born and raised in Burundi. After recently fleeing her home country, she has created a new life in South Africa filled with ambition and vigor. This year, Mami won an award at SAMUN for her debating skills while representing the country China. Let’s get to know Mami better!


Mami wants to study medicine at a global university

What excites you about SAMUN?

I was so excited to have the opportunity to get involved in global issues and think logically about issues that I only see on TV.

What was the toughest lesson you learned during SAMUN?

While I really enjoy debating, I now realize debating is not about who speaks the loudest. It is about who comes up with solutions that are doable and for the benefit of others.

SAMUN also taught me how to approach any issue with discipline and speak with confidence.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I have a passion for medicine. It was never my first choice because I always believed that too many people wanted to be doctors for the wrong reasons. It was not until my aunt had problems with her lungs that I realized that this world needs people who can serve others without making others feel guilty for being sick. I am willing to serve and learn.

I can only study medicine if I get a scholarship. I want to study abroad so that I can serve on a global scale.

If you could say anything on an international platform, what would it be?

I would say:

“Fellow delegates, the time has come where talking about the problem stops. It is time to place the solutions into action. Anyone can be a refugee. When we remain treating people like me like a little refugee girl, it becomes a burden. Instead, we need to educate her, feed her and remember it takes a village to raise a child. The very same girl you see as a burden will cure HIV, will provide breathtaking research in astronomy and will transform an economy. Let us have leaders who believe in the potential of their people.”


Mami, on the far left, debating at SAMUN 2016

Stay tuned for posts written by Mami about her SAMUN peers!

Want to support students like Mami? Make a donation to Education Africa and support the SAMUN program — Donate here!

Spotlight on South Africa Model United Nations: Meet our students!

This February our South Africa Model United Nations program (SAMUN) revs up for the international Model UN competition in the USA. In a blog series this month, we will spotlight the talented and diverse students that participate in the program through the lens of one of their peers! 

Read on for the latest updates on SAMUN and stay connected to learn more about our students!

SAMUN is a year long program – learn more about it here! – engages students from all 9 provinces in workshops and conferences where schools represent different countries to discuss policy, diplomacy and global issues. The workshops culminate in a national debate in South Africa which took place in October in Cape Town.



The students representing South Africa in the competition this month in the USA!

The winners this year were the ladies from the Mpumalanga province. The students hailed from both Penryn College & Sitintile Secondary and represented Ethiopia in the competition. Eight other students – one from each province – were selected to form the final team that heads to the US later in February.

While it is an honor to be selected for the international competition, all of our students in SAMUN benefit from this program and shine amongst their peers. Keep up with our Facebook and blog to see the students shaping the future of South Africa!



What makes our South Africa Model United Nations program the most unique in the world

At Education Africa, every component of their programs is designed to advance the social cohesion within South Africa.

A quick history on Education Africa

When James Urdang, CEO, began the organization some twenty-five years ago, he – and the country – were beginning a new life with a more just government without apartheid rule. James’ family members were exiled during apartheid and so he personally felt the impact of this time in his country’s history.

James is also dyslexic and understands the struggles that traditional education can bring to those who are wired to learn differently.

Combining both his desire to support innovative forms of education and to bring together a country in need of hope and unity, James founded Education Africa.

Education Africa, Nelson Mandela and the South African Model UN


Team Russia delivering a closing statement at Friday’s debate

James knew it was important to gain support from political groups within the country as he started the organization. He soon became connected to Walter Sisulu (a lifelong mentor), Nelson Mandela and the minister of Education.

Through these relationships, James helped to broker an incredible opportunity for the country and children working with the organization: a chance to accompany Nelson Mandela to the first UN General Assembly meeting where South Africa was recognized as a voting nation after apartheid.

After this incredible experience, all parties agreed that more children in the country needed to learn about the importance of diplomacy and global collaboration. The South Africa Model United Nations was born!

How Education Africa changed the game

Replicating the typical Model UN program was not enough for the organization. Given the recent history of South Africa and the belief that education is the key to sustainable and deep change, Education Africa developed the concept of “twinning.”

In this program, twinning means that every four-person team of delegates (students representing a country) two are from an advantaged school and two are from a disadvantaged school.


Strategy, teamwork and communication are keys to success at SAMUN

For those not familiar with the South African school system, there are two types of schools: government-run (public) and private. The government-run schools are typically categorized as the disadvantaged schools in our program. These schools do not have amenities like a computer room or wifi, which would be a true disadvantage for a team hoping to participate in this very research-heavy program.

By twinning these two schools, students who many never have met before have the chance to form relationships, share knowledge and resources, and engage in life-changing experiences.

For at least three months, the teams operate as a country and must learn about that country’s economic, political and social viewpoints and environments.  They meet regularly to train for the provincial debate in hopes of reaching the national competition taking place now in Cape Town. For one lucky team – and one student from each province – the next step is to travel to New York and Washington DC to participate in an international Model UN competition.

For the eighteen years of global competition, a South African team has taken home an award for at least twelve times.


Friendships formed at the conference are just one of the tangible takeaways for delegates

What’s more, the South Africa conference includes a sleepover at Robben Island. Bongi, the program manager, describes this component as incredibly important to demonstrate appreciation for the country’s history and recognize the price of freedom earned by the nation’s famed leaders and lesser-known victims.

This is the only program that exists in which the public stays on the island and is curated specifically for the participants of the Model UN conference. Bongi describes this program component as simply transformative and sees a marked difference in the students at the final luncheon which takes place on the island after their overnight experience.

The impact created

While the trophies do bring glory, the program itself creates much more substantial impact. SAMUN, which is free to all participating schools and open to any in the country, has changed the trajectory of students’ lives.


Both soft skills and hard skills are learned throughout the program

Just the other night, I was sitting at dinner with two Model UN alumni who are now coaching teams going through the competition. They met at the conference five years ago and are currently both studying law at the same university in South Africa. Without doubt, this program has catapulted their growth and they expect the same for those they are now mentoring.

Each student is given an individual interview to help the judges decide who will go to the international competition. I sat in on these interviews where students shared stories of their past that included fleeing their home countries, growing up without parents and overcoming hardships in a school filled with apathetic classmates and teachers.

For most, coming to Cape Town for this conference was the first time they had traveled outside of their province. For many, staying in a hotel and flying on a plane were luxuries that they were also previously unexperienced.

As I watch the formal debates, speak to students on the bus and see them forming friendships over dinner, I am inspired by their professionalism and authenticity. It is impossible to tell which students come from advantaged or disadvantaged schools, and the sense of camaraderie and teamwork spreads quickly throughout Cape Town’s civic center.


Delegates working together with other countries to finalize a resolution at the first debate

Yesterday, the delegates passed a resolution to support “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” as a means to encourage technological advancement in the face of rising unemployment. They agreed that the potential to improve millions of lives through technological innovation is far too exciting to suppress and that job creation should be taken as a shared challenge by nations around the world.

The thrill felt by the thirty-six students was palpable. In just four hours, they had built trust, expressed their views and come together in pursuit of a goal that benefits others very different from themselves.

Witnessing the intelligence and passion that these students possess is not only impressive, but energizing. It makes me want to become a more informed and creative global citizen.

Most of all, I feel fortunate to know these students as I have no doubt that they will be the ones who move our world towards a more productive, empathetic and thoughtful future.

How can you help?

Support Education Africa to help grow this program to more schools within the country

Join South Africa Model UN as a school: email

Share our story on social media and like us on Facebook!

This post is written by Catherine Soler, USA Board Trustee of Education Africa. She will be posting about her experience on the ground in South Africa this month. Follow us on social media and sign up for email alerts on the right hand side to receive updates when a new piece is posted.