I attended a conference organised by the Lagos Regional Secondary Schools Model United Nations (LARSSMUN) this week (November 8 to 11) and came out feeling not only invigorated but feeling overly optimistic about Nigeria's future in the comity of nations. This was the first time that the Model United Nations has held this conference in Lagos and so it was a testing ground for rolling out the programme to other Nigerian cities.
Briefly, the Model UN emulates exactly (almost) what happens in the UN and its various bodies. Students, including those from my school, were told to report on Saturday November 7th 2015 into the assembly hall in a pristine hotel, the Golden Tulip in FESTAC, with a view to being briefed and assigned various ambassadorial and committee duties. They were then dispersed to their various hotels to commence research on the different countries that they were to represent. It seems the better of Sunday was spent on addressing issues and coming up with resolutions for adoption as well as writing speeches for the plenary session on Monday.
On Monday the plenary session of the UN commenced and as an educationist, I was thrilled to see how seriously these young students took their roles. The UN Secretary General and other dignitaries delivered their speeches and asked for the commencement of business of nations: to negotiate agreements. At that point the student representing the U.K. as ambassador raised her hand and asked for the suspension of the session because of several reasons. The motion was countered and then it was put to the vote with of course the UK securing its motion. As a British, I felt good that our representative could have been so able and dignified to the point where I shamelessly shouted "bravo" and "well done" to all that.
As the session continued, it made me aware of 2 key issues: the role of private schools in educating the leaders of the future and Nigeria's emergence as a truly formidable nation. I have for some time now been opining on what characteristics we can expect of an international school. In my various discourse, I have touched on many aspects that I think an international school should exhibit and promote. I would now humbly like to add one other important dimension: negotiation. It occurred to me as I watched these students debate and played various roles that these were preparatory ground for what the future holds. I am convinced from the events all around us in our current world that the future will increasingly be about learning to negotiate (sometimes delicately and sometimes hard) so that your neighbour will not feel that they have lost out, whatever the issue may be. The future will be a place where education will become the enabling factor to see and understand another man's perspective.
Negotiation skills often centre on the proposition of a little give and take so that the end result can produce a result that can be accepted by all, even if it does not meet the original requirements of the negotiators. The future will demand much more of our future leaders and negotiators because the issues they will negotiate over will determine the future of nations and the avoidance of catastrophic wars! As such, our schools should begin to look at ways in which they can develop these soft skills in all our children for they form a part of what is now being termed "emotional intelligence". The evidence I gleaned from this role playing exercise of the Model UN suggests that we, the private educators in Nigeria, have begun the task of preparing our children for that future. So in addition to being literate, our children must imbibe those qualities that would be required to achieve peace and equity in the world of the future. We must begin to teach them not only the competitive skills of life but the qualities of humbly accepting certain things that are unpalatable. It is a fine-line that would have to be learnt and re-learnt for the benefit of all.
To the greatness of Nigeria: it is this future generation that would make it all possible. As they adapt to both national and international conditions they will make it possible to realise great possibilities. At the national level, they will create the enabling environment for the inclusion of all. Indeed, the theme of the conference said it all: "promoting responsible citizenship". Speaker after speaker exalted the qualities of good citizenship but they almost all transcended Nigeria and rather the world. I sat amazed that this generation of students that we have been training and are still training to think internationally are now thinking of their world. To borrow and paraphrase a statement from one of the ambassadors: you may think that you are alright because Boko Haram is not devastating the Southern part of Nigeria. You are wrong because the North also belongs to us all and when our brothers and sisters there cry, we also should cry with them. I sat in awe that such a young mind can think far beyond what our generation can ever dared to have imagined. Here was this young student educating me that the future can only be fit to inhabit when there is inclusion of all, no matter how painful that process may be. I said Nigeria's future is bright and here was the evidence. Nigeria's future generation have come to accept that theirs is a burden not only of the country of Nigeria but also of Africa and the rest of the world. So Nigeria's important role in the comity of nations is assured as long as we can unfailingly continue to produce these types of thinkers. They will spearhead the impossible that will trickle to all starting with their fellow citizens and then to the rest of the word of which they are an integral part. As I gaze into this future, I only wish I can be granted another 50 years of life in order to see how very wrong my generation of thinkers were.
To conclude, the Model UN is an important player in harnessing the generation of the future. There can be no better way to develop leadership skills than to get this generation to think globally. Beyond any doubt, all private schools should take part because this is a key element in determining the degree to which a school is international. The future requires that we rethink our educational content and that we begin to heavily complement our hard skills input with emotional intelligence. It is that type of intelligence of which negotiation skills is an important element (with all its attendant qualities of empathy, trust, credibility, and a deep sense of fairness and justice) that will provide the platform for this generation to live in a world where the true practice of caring and being responsible for our neighbours can truly take shape.
This article is written by Dr. Ghalib Fahad.
DOS Grenville Schools, Ikeja-GRA, Lagos/Director PGTI
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