If you peeped into the life of a a young Model UN delegate just before a conference, what do you think you would find? Of course, notes, printouts, speeches etc. But what about the changes in lifestyle? Well, just a week ago the UN Day Model United Nations conference ended in Ghana with about 200 delegates from various Junior High Schools (with delegates from 6th to 8th grade) across the country. Students had fruitful simulations of the General Assembly and the Security Council to discuss the theme “The threat of terrorism and the protection of children”. At the end of the simulation, it was interesting to hear what these young students had to say about their experiences prior to the conference. What they put into transforming from school children to make-belief ambassadors. The responses they gave are very good talking points for any individual or group at the level who intend to enter the game of Model UN.
- Sacrifice the cartoon series for the news channels
Many of the students (aged between 10 and 13) were usually fanatics of the cartoon series on daily basis. But as they would soon realize, their Model UN status meant that they needed to change this habit and start paying more attention to the news. As one 10-year old delegate had to say: “before this conference, I thought that the news was just for dad and mum. Everyday I waited for them to finish watching the news and then I will change to the cartoon channels. But when I started this program, I realized that the news was not just for mum and dad alone; kids can also learn something from it”
- Call friends to compare notes
Many of the delegates had a colleague or more participating in the conference. As they are called, these “delegations” from schools sometimes consult among themselves. Sometimes they meet in schools under the leadership of teachers and faculty advisors. Sometimes two delegates call each other to plan a meeting in one person’s house. Hence the team work of delegates begins from their homes and not just at the conference. Students get to know one another’s house for the first time through MUN. Two Junior High Schools students (7th graders) spoke about how they would frequently call each other and find out how the research was going. “I will wake up early in the morning and ask mum to call my friend for me. At other times she will call me and we could share ideas on what we were writing and find out if it was okay”
- ‘Angels and Devils’ in the middle of the night
It was interesting to note that a few of the students recount having sleepless nights and dreams about their participation. Some would dream about standing at the podium and shivering all over. Some would describe nightmares they had when everyone burst out laughing when they started to speak to the large gathering. As one 13-year old said “one night I woke up in the middle of the night sweating all over. In the dream, I had just slipped and fallen whilst I was going to speak”. It was not all gloomy though. Others had pleasant dreams. “I dreamed that everyone was clapping for me when I finished speaking, and I was very happy” said an 11 year old who won an honorable mention.
- New uses of the internet
“Before I got into Model UN, I did not know how to attach files and send them through the email”– 12 year old Junior High School Student (7th grader). “Many of my friends did not know how to do this. I was the only one who came from my school, so I think that now I can teach my friends. I remember that the official sent back my position paper and asked me to attach it. So I had to learn to attach the file and send it.” In Ghana, the Model UN process is used by Life-link Ghana as one of the effective and practical ways to teach the use of the internet, especially in rural schools who have less practical ways of doing it. Many of the model UN delegates found the research bit of the program very interesting.
- Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who’s the most eloquent of them all?
While some students said they had to practice public speaking in front of the mirror as they were taught at Model UN training sessions, others were fortunate to have their parents and siblings serve as a practice audience for their mock speeches before the conference. In fact, so involved were their parents that, some of the students felt they owed their parents the duty to win an award. As one 10 year old responded when asked what would be her greatest disappointment in the conference, she said; “if I don’t win an award I will feel very sad. I have told my parents that I will win for them and so I am confident that I will win”…..and truly, she went ahead to win the overall best delegate award and will be heading to the United States of America in 2015 to participate in the Global Classrooms Model UN conference.
These are few of the excerpts that I have drawn from interactions with students who attended the Life-link Model United Nations Conference in Ghana. So the next time you see a basic school kid preparing for Model UN, pay attention not just to the event but also to the effort put into it by these young delegates.