by Ivy Tirok, United World College Maastricht
3rd of November, 2018
The new school year marked various changes for the UWCM community. Among these changes was the introduction of the Say What lectures, a replacement of Community Time. The lectures, which take place on the third Tuesday of every month, have been met with much expectation and enthusiasm from the community.
Last year, Community Time was plagued with poor attendance despite the effort that the organizers put into the event. This became a cause of conflict within the campus as it was perceived that one’s loyalty, participation and fulfilment of the UWC values was mutually exclusive to their attendance. Although both staff and student schedules were set in a manner that would allow them to attend Community Time, members of the community often excused themselves, claiming that they had more pressing things to see to. Regardless of the excuse, the reality suggested that the event simply failed to grab the intended audience’s attention.
As such, it is pertinent to give credit to the Say What lectures, which have added a layer of sophistication to the community engagement opportunities. The lectures aim to bring speakers from across the world to nurture perspectives and increase diversity of thought. Rhiannon Adams, who was the keynote speaker in the first Say What lecture, allowed us to travel to Pitcairn Island through her photographs. She provided insight on the life that existed beyond the swaying palm trees and soft white sand of South Pacific islands. The second lecture, entitled “The Power of Stories”, was poignant in nature. Swedish singer-songwriter August Boson Green kicked of the talk with two powerful songs that illustrated how one can overcome challenges through music and other forms of expression. Thereafter, Marie-Christine Nibagwire, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, detailed her journey from Rwanda to England, as a refugee during a tumultuous time. Her description of the initiatives she founded to assist other victims of the genocide made the idea of social entrepreneurship less abstract, particularly for DP1s undergoing training in youth social entrepreneurship.
By linking each lecture with a department in the school, the Say What organizing team enhanced the collaboration of staff members with the rest of the community outside class time. Reducing the frequency of the event by having monthly lectures as compared to weekly Community Time events, also boosted anticipation towards it. An increasing number of community members now look forward to intentionally spending a set amount of time sharing and learning from one another. It is safe to say that the Say What organizing team got it right this time. Nevertheless, the need to take attendance remains a questionable aspect of the lectures. Doesn’t it suggest that despite the zeal towards the event, members of the community, particularly students, are not trusted to be present? More so, what are the reasons that have led to this ‘lack of trust’?
Overall, the element of change has become a defining quality for the Maastricht campus. As illustrated by the transition from the Global Café to Community Time and now to the Say What lectures, it is clear that the members of this community continuously seek to do better when they know better. May this desire to improve be manifested in other school activities.