During the discussion
“You know the UN exists but the Model UN debates give you the real insight.”
“Model UN is a very useful tool. It makes you more aware, and trains you to be a better global citizen. “It was the best experience ever! Every young person should have such an experience.”
These quotes reflect just some of the many stimulating topics that were discussed in a meeting where four eleventh grade Model United Nations “ambassadors” from the Western Cape province visited the UN in Pretoria.
Josie Parks and Ashleigh September from Kylemore Secondary School Stellenbosch, and Liesel Fortuin and Hailey Parring of Ravensmead Secondary School had a day’s programme at the United Nations Library in Pretoria on 5 November, where they had several conversations with UN staff from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A visit to the Union Buildings also formed part of their “tour of Pretoria”.
As participants in the recent South African Model United Nations International Conference, the students were sponsored by the Rachel’s Angels mentorship programme to visit the UN. Rachel’s Angels is a mentorship initiative – driven by Media24 and the University of Stellenbosch – which promotes excellence in high school education throughout the Western Cape.
While interacting with UNIC staff members Helene Hoedl, Hope Kabamba, Sudeshan Reddy and Nadine Wa Kalonji, the girls were articulate and poised in stating their views on the United Nations. They also asked well-informed questions about the UN.
A number of topics pertaining to the UN were brought up and discussed. However, one issue that stood out was the general awareness about the United Nations in South Africa. The girls believe that the UN and the Millennium Development Goals are not sufficiently known in South Africa. One of the suggestions made was that United Nations videos, such as the UN4U video, the Millennium Development Eight Goals for Africa video, and similar educational videos be aired on television networks that are accessible to the public – network channels such as MTV, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and on local youth programmes like Yo.TV.
Other subjects that were spoken about with UNIC agency representatives included child soldiers, human rights, the Millennium Development Goals and the involvement of ordinary citizens in the UN.
UN staff members encouraged the learners to stay informed and continue to engage with UN-related issues.
The learners were very excited about being at the United Nations offices in Pretoria and had a sense of pride in being involved in the United Nations. They commented that the diversity and depth of the UN should be exposed to more people. As one of the girls put it “It is only until you take part in UN programmes that you want to be involved in the Organization.”