UWC Day looked and felt very different this year. In the High School, the focus was on effective advocacy, with the overarching theme of ‘Standing Up and Speaking Out for Peace and a Sustainable Future’. Each High School grade had a specific focus: Grades 9 and 10 focused on the global refugee crisis, Grade 11 on advocating for equality and Grade 12, the importance of truth and justice through the lens of the tragic murder of UWC USA alumnus Giulio Regini.
UWC Day looked and felt very different because the students determined the themes, the foci, curated the materials and trained the student facilitators who delivered the materials, led discussion and activities in their Mentor groups on the day. It was truly a UWC experience and driven by a core student group, two students from each Grade level nominated by their Heads of Grade: Chanreaksmey So, Alexander Barbier, Audrey Njo, Ella McAuliffe, Amelie Lo, Anton Van Gyseghem, Jemima Lee and Oscar McAuliffe.
Spearheaded by Chanreaksmey So and Alexander Barbier, our Grade 12 students who represented Dover Campus at the 2016 UWC Congress, held at UWC Adriatic, Mey and Alexander returned from the Congress with the aspiration to bring a wider dialogue of UWCSEA’s place in the wider UWC movement to all High School students. They wanted to bring issues being discussed and being acted upon across our international movement to our High School community. UWC Day was a medium to achieve this goal. Hence, the UWC Taskforce group was formed.
The Taskforce group used the new Service curriculum standards to guide the learning outcomes; for the students to gain knowledge; develop skills and take action. Students linked with International Office, Atlantic, Adriatic, Mostar and Dilijan to obtain the materials used on the day.
Grades 9 and 10 developed their understanding of the refugee crisis and UWC’s response, the UWC Refugee Initiative. The scholars funded through our UWCSEA community were introduced to the High School students. Nancy, from South Sudan, studying at UWC Dilijan and Mahmoud, UWC Mostar IB student from Palestine, spoke of their path to becoming recipients of UWC Refugee Scholarships. The Grade 9, 10 and 12 students collected $6000 for the initiative. In full grade assemblies, the students were moved and inspired by guest speaker, Joy Haugen, an East Campus colleague who generously shared her very personal story of leaving South Sudan and growing up in a Ugandan refugee camp. She spoke of the power of education as being a catalyst for change. The conversation continued (and continues) with the Rohingya crisis. Students put the question of how UWCSEA can give voice for the voiceless? Should UWCSEA cancel travel to Burma, should the student body boycott SEASAC competitions held in Burma? Seventy percent of the students voted ‘Yes’.
Our Grade 11’s attention was directed to inequality in different forms and in particular, gender inequality. The students showed India’s Daughter, a documentary film by Leslee Udwin. Challenging to watch, due to it’s content which is centred around the events of the rape and subsequent death of Jyoti Singh, the film shows the remarkable protests which followed the heinous crime. Remarkable because protest movements rarely last for a month, and not on the scale which occurred day after day all around India, where men and women protested together, calling for action to be taken.
The students then organised a live Skype call with Leslee Udwin, the director of India’s Daughter and the founder of Think Equal, an educational program to promote equality and inclusivity to schools. Tackling the issue of inequality at the root.
UWC USA alumnus, Cambridge student, Giulio Regini was tortured and murdered in Egypt. Giulio joined the growing list of ‘forcibly disappeared’ in Egypt whilst conducting research for his PhD. The UWC community alongside Amnesty International and major media outlets have been advocating and lobbying for the truth surrounding this crime and Grade 12 students focused on the pursuit of truth and justice, the importance of advocacy, in light of the ethos and values of our UWC mission. 9 Days in Cairo: Torture and Murder of Giulio Regini, a documentary film was followed by a recorded video of the first recipient of a special scholarship for Egyptian students to UWC Adriatic, established in Giulio’s name. The remarkable and most magnanimous spirit of generosity by Giulio’s parents in establishing this scholarship pays tribute to the power of a UWC education.
The Taskforce was delighted and humbled by UWC Day. It was a great first step for the group, a powerful learning experience for all involved, which would not have been possible without the guidance of the passionate teachers involved: Barry Daniels, Susan Edwards, Joe McWilliams, Nathan Hunt, Andrew McCarthy and Tim Walters.
“I think UWC Day is far too undervalued. We as a community need a little push every now and then; talking about conflict, holding seminars and revisiting our values are the perfect nudge. This year we spoke about a brilliant young man whose life was cut short due to his diligence and commitment towards his work. He was an exemplary UWC graduate and I believe learning about him and raising awareness gave us, the students, far greater perspectives as to how we can truly change the world bit by bit.” Grade 12 student
“I think it was incredibly successful and let us openly discuss and explore behavior that is so prevalent yet still so taboo to talk about which is quite frankly - ridiculous. The movie was so powerful and I’m grateful that our grade got to watch it and just be more aware about gender inequality and rape”. Grade 11 student
“I personally learned a lot and felt that I had opportunities to help those in the situation. I especially enjoyed hearing from the guest speaker as it definitely made the situation in the world seem that much more real, and, helped us to further understand the lives of those people facing this problem around the world.” Grade 9 student
"I am moved beyond adequate expression. Your commitment to a better world and your activism is inspiring, thank you so much for your huge hearts and robust support of Think Equal. There's a LOT of world to change and having amazing human wings like you at our side as we climb the mountains is very fortifying." Leslee Udwin, Director and Producer of India's Daughter