Shaping Leaders Abroad: How a College Student Shared Her Model United Nations Experience in Ghana

by KFC on February 7, 2012

This post has been provided by Dana Lea from Southern Methodist University. Dana studied abroad in Ghana and brought her Model UN experience to a school there. 

The Team from Roman Ridge School in Ghana

The impact of Model United Nations (MUN) on the youth of the world is not to necessarily create future employees to the United Nations. Students who participate in MUN go into fields of all kinds including science and technology, finances, peace and security, human rights, health, and politics. The impact MUN has is to create the leaders in these fields. MUN students learn the skills necessary for leadership roles and a future in international relations: debate, diplomatic relations, resolution writing, negotiation, and strategy implementation. The value of these skills is incalculable and shapes these student’s futures. Having participated in MUN for eight years myself, I can honestly say that the experience I have gained molds whom I am, what I study and what job I will get after college.

In much of the developing world there is a need for leadership. Poor national planning, inefficient resource allocation, faulty national financial systems, and corruption in presiding administrations cause many of the hardships developing nations face. Many governments are not being held accountable by their citizens or by the international community. Education is the best way to break free of these inadequacies. The leaders of nations usually arise from the educated elite (unless otherwise from the military). Education thus has the power to create mold future leaders.

However, I do not believe we should rely solely on the established education systems. I believe that spreading Model United Nations organizations in these schools can teach the skills listed above that many of the leaders today are lacking. By playing a role in the international system, solving international conflicts and issues through negotiation, and upholding human rights and international regulations through treaties and resolutions students are coaxed away from conceptions of corruption and nepotism. These students gain an understanding of how the world works outside of the borders of their own nations and how to act in accordance to international law. MUN can even give these students ideas for how to fix development issues within their own countries by implementation of policies created in committee; MUN definitely garners research into what does work and what does not work; and MUN empowers students not only skills and knowledge to implement in international and political careers, but creates a drive in these students to go out, make a difference and become leaders in whatever fields they seek.

When I studied abroad in Accra, Ghana my spring 2011 semester, I wanted to do more than go to school. Through my host sister I met a woman named Deirdre Babalola, a general studies teacher at The Roman Ridge School. She told me how she was interested in creating a Model United Nations team for her upper level students and I quickly volunteered for the endeavor. I began working with her 19 students twice a week during their class period. I taught them the basics of the United Nations, parliamentary procedure, debate, research, bloc formation, and resolution writing.

Delegates voting in committee

Some of the students got really into the Model United Nations sessions and really began to shine as speakers and leaders, while others seemed not to be as enthused. During practice sessions I made sure that every student contributed, despite his or her level of willingness. For our conference to be held in late May, I chose the topic of peace resolution in Cote d’Ivoire. I believed the topic to be best since it was extremely close to home for these West African students and offered room for exceptional debate on how to handle an issue that was still being disputed by nations at the time. For country assignments I tried to really challenge all the students. Some of the best debaters were given P5 nations, while others were challenged with smaller developing nations. I also thought that I could motivate some of the not so eager students with powerful nations with many strong opinions. The counties represented at our conference included Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Egypt, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Kenya, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Gambia, South Africa, USA, Russia, China, France, and the UK. These assignments ensured regional cooperation, bloc formation, various opinions and solutions, and P5 resistance.

The week before our conference Mrs. Babalola collected the position papers written by the students, which she used for grades and I used to choose awards and to gage the students’ level of research. On the day of our conference the students were allowed to shed their school uniforms and come to school in western business attire appropriate for any Model UN conference. The level of participation and excitement was much higher on this day than it had been during any of the training sessions. A crowd of students, staff and parents were in attendance to watch the hard work of the class unfold. Debate went splendidly and the students exhibited the skills and knowledge they had gained in the prior weeks.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the experience I had at the Roman Ridge School. Not only was I able to impart my Model UN skills and international relations knowledge to these students, but also I gained a sense of appreciation for the organization I have been a part of for eight years. I hope that many of these students will be inspired to continue with world politics and international relations. I know that the skills they have learned are tremendously valuable for their futures. From what I saw in the classroom on the day of our conference, I would not be surprised if a future president or minister of Ghana was in the room. These students are the future leaders of Africa and the world, I only hope my lessons in MUN can impart the tools necessary for that future.

I would like to send great thanks all the way to Ghana to Mrs. Babalola and her wonderful and bright students. I would also like the chance to recognize the winners of awards at our conference. Many of the students did wonderfully, but these are the students who reached beyond. The Best Delegate award went to Murvi Babalola (USA). Our Honorable Mentions went to Marciyah Gyan (France), Funbi Makinde (Ghana), and Abishek Raghavan (Gambia). The Best Position Paper award went to Matilda Williams (Guinea Bissau) and the Honorable Mention for Position Paper went to Eugene Brown (UK).

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