INSTEAD of sleeping late and watching TV all day, 800 of the Eastern Cape’s top performing Grade 12 learners recently gave up a week of their school holiday to take part in the Thuthuka development camp in Port Elizabeth and Mthatha. This initiative, run by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Education, culminated in two special award ceremonies where six learners were crowned the brightest maths, science and accounting learners in the province.The province’s two Thuthuka Development Camps were held at the Sumcay Camping Centre in Despatch and Walter Sisulu University’s Mthatha Campus during the July school holidays. The camps were marked not only by the enthusiasm of the attending learners, but by the dedication, sacrifice and infectious energy of the camp leaders. These leaders were made up of Thuthuka Bursary Fund recipients currently undergoing their university studies across the country and other individuals from the education space that are passionate about youth development. It is this passion and dedication to giving back that saw the camp leaders steer and inspire 800 independent and gifted young minds to seeing their full potential and beginning the work to fulfil it.During the camps, learners from disadvantaged communities around the province received additional support in mathematics, communication, science, accounting, career guidance and life skills. On the last day of each camp, the SAICA and the Eastern Cape Department of Education congratulated the following learners for achieving top marks:Port ElizabethAccounting: Ayabulela Xongo, Kwa Komani Comprehensive School, Queenstown DistrictPhysical Science: Simbongile Mapasa, Ngwenyathi High School, East London DistrictMaths: Anele Goniwe, Funda High School, Queenstown DistrictMthathaAccounting: Viwe Anna, Holy Cross Education Centre, Mthatha DistrictPhysical Science: Xabiso Ncanywa, Sangoni Senior Secondary School, Lusikisiki DistrictMaths: Mzudumile Kaizer, Gobe Comprehensive High School, Butterworth District“These week-long Thuthuka camps are important events as they combine tutorials in key subjects, together with career guidance and soft skills development such as responsible leadership, team work, etc., all of which are designed to help learners at the camps deal with the challenges that young people face today,” explains SAICA Project Director for Transformation, Lwando Bantom.However, the real significance of these camps is seen, not only in the amount of confidence learners gain during the week, but also when you review the matric results of the learners who attend the camps, Bantom reveals. This is because “our records indicate that many of the learners who attend these provincially-run camps each year make it onto the country’s top matric learner list.”It is for this reason that these annual camps continue to have the support of the Eastern Cape Department of Education which, like SAICA, is actively working to improve the educational standards of maths, science and accounting for disadvantaged learners in the province.