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Junior 8 Summit 2009: Impressions by Aletta Dhlamini, Free State

© UNICEF/2009
Aletta in one of the sessions.

The first time I heard about this trip to Rome I was not as happy as I should have been because my teacher was not sure if it was real.

After I got a call from UNICEF I started to believe it’s true. I was so happy, I cried because I was so excited. It was hard to describe to others how I felt. I applied for my passport immediately. My trip had a few problems since the day I heard about it. It took me forever to get my passport. People from UNICEF had to go to Kroonstad in order for me to get it. I flew via Bloemfontein to Johannesburg and my flight was delayed.

The next morning we went to the UNICEF offices in Pretoria and to the National department of Education, where we met all the heads of the Education Department like Duncan Hindle, Ms. Ninjevold and many more, we just barged into their meeting and were introduced to them. After that we had a UNICEF workshop at the UNICEF offices and proceeded to learn about how to deal with the media.

Later that day we left for the airport. We were there three hours before the flight. It was then when I realized that ‘this is it’.  I was very proud of myself. We passed all the security checks and were left to pass the passport check. I got the shock of my life! My passport was not ready…so I had to use a temporary one. We were standing in the line as a team, wearing our South African tracksuits.  The first two delegates went through the gate. As I got nearer I told myself ‘goodbye South Africa’ but then I was informed that I couldn’t go through because of my passport, I was so devastated! Lindiwe was nice enough stay behind with me whilst the rest of my team went ahead with the trip. We took another flight two days later. I was two days late but I eventually got there. I was there for the opening ceremony.

In Rome we all felt at home. We had to discuss issues like climate change, education, the financial crisis in the context of children’s rights and development in Africa. I was also partaking in the cultural group where we had to come up with events and find ways to make it eco-friendly, which was very fun.

The food was very different there but we survived. The place was beautiful, it had old buildings and the parking is awful. What I enjoyed the most was the cultural evening where everyone had a chance to ‘show off’ their own culture.

My second favourite event was when we had dinner with the Minister of international relation and cooperation. We had South African food and listened to South African music. We went to bed very late as we were busy working on the declaration and action plan. It does not matter what time we went to be bed, it was all worth it. We’ve all decided that what we’ve planned on the action plan shouldn’t just be word but action.

I would like to start by thanking UNICEF for choosing us to represent South Africa and Mrs. Strydom for everything. I would also like to thank my family for all their love and support and Moqhaka Municipality. It was a privilege and honour.

More about the Junior 8 Summit

Junior 8 Summit website





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PHOTO ESSAY: South Africa at the Junior 8 Summit


Experiences of the four young South Africans who represented the country at the J8 Summit in Rome.

[View photo essay]

South African representatives at the J8

Read their biographical data and watch short videos on their expectations of the J8 Summit:


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