On the 8th of May 2017 the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Windhoek officially set into motion the two week High School Practicum Programme where young selected students from a variety of schools can engage themselves in the world of the United Nations (UN).
The day started off with a meet-and-greet with the UN Resident Coordinator (RC), Ms. Kiki Gbeho. The RC delivered an extremely motivational message inspiring the students to work hard, dare to be different, stand up for themselves and to take space, i.e. take your seat at the table, make use of opportunities. Through her motivational speech she put great emphasis on the “3 Es”, empowerment, education and employment.
After a brief tea break the participants received an insightful overview of the UN System. They learnt that the UN was started in October 1945 after the Second World War in order to promote peace and never allow such an event to occur again. Currently it has a total of 193 member states out of 196 existing countries. At first the UN did not have a large world membership but as the years passed more and more countries joined the organization, as the young people were orientated through a timeline. Namibia joined the UN in 1990 on the 23 of April. In order for a country to be a part of the UN they have to agree with “The Charter of the United Nations.” The students learnt that the current Secretary General is Antonia Guterres who replaced Ban Ki Moon at the start of the year 2017.
The youngsters learnt that the UN is divided into six main organs including the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Security Council has 5 permanent member states which are Great Britain, China, The United States, Russia and France and 10 non-permanent member States.
After the presentation the participants delved into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are the goals set by the UN for the year 2030. They learnt that there are a total of 17 SDGs however, on their first day they focused mainly on 4 of them; Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation and Reduced Inequalities. The students were divided into groups and each group undertook practical work on one of the four goals mentioned.
Based on the goal of Zero Hunger the group explained problems such as malnutrition and how hunger can lead to crime. They came up with solutions such as subsistence farming and food couponing. On Quality Education the team elaborated upon why good education is so important giving reasons such as promotion of economic growth, lower unemployment rates and higher literacy rate. The groups highlighted that the best way to implement this was through investment in schools and different teaching methods such as digital teaching.
Later on in the day the high school practicum learners engaged in an activity called “line of fire” where they were asked to share their opinions on various different topics such as “Should education be free?” or “Should refugee criminals be sent back to their home countries?” This launched debates amongst the learners as opinions on certain topics varied. For example during the debate concerning refugees some students believed that refugees should be treated as citizens of their host countries regardless of their crimes and thus treated by the same justice system as normal citizens. Others disagreed and thought these refugees should be sent back to their home countries. The exchange was insightful and the groups reflected on the ideals of the UN and its mandate to protect.
To conclude, it was an extraordinary day whereby learners developed skills such as teamwork, public speaking, and problem solving. In addition, the group learnt a great deal about the UN. Getting to know each other was the order of the day for the first day and taking in the different opinions regarding matters was also an eye opening experience. The learners eagerly look forward to the rest of the 10 day program and are very grateful for the opportunity to be selected as participants of this unique programme, tailored for the Namibian child.