Support for opening a Middle Eastern UWC at Ras al Khaimah
To the International Board of the United World Colleges,
We are writing to you as members of the United World Colleges community – students, faculty, and alumni and other UWC supporters worldwide – to express our support for the project to open a UWC school in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.
We believe that forming the RAK UWC will help support the UWC’s core values of mutual responsibility and respect, intercultural understanding, respect for the environment, sense of idealism, compassion, and personal example.
This school will be a valuable addition to the UWC and will help effect change that is so needed in this troubled part of the world. The school will provide a unique opportunity to educate generations of young leaders that will serve as catalysts for change in this region and the whole world.
We see the formation of the RAK UWC as a unique opportunity to not only drive change but also accomplish the values of the UWC we hold so dear. We are aware there are challenges beset by the cultural and political situation in RAK (and the Middle East), but we also know that those challenges are an integral part of creating a unique opportunity for students to learn and act.
Aligning well with the spirit of the UWC values, the UWC RAK will serve these young adults with a unique opportunity to meet young people from varied backgrounds and have meaningful discussions around core ideals such as freedom, equality and mutual respect. A school in the Middle East will help celebrate difference and will serve as a unique spot to appreciate and respect the environment and experience the true implications of our current global policies.
Some of us come from the Middle East and have felt the impact of conflicts in the region firsthand. It is indeed an area fraught with challenges. There are policies and practices in question that we deeply object to. With that in mind, we see the opportunity these challenges can provide in serving a unique opportunity for UWC students and teachers to have meaningful experiences. These moral dilemmas can be leveraged for a much deeper educational experience around key topics such as peace, justice and the power of social change, than might otherwise be possible in less challenging environments.
Learning from the example of the other 18 schools and colleges on 4 continents we strongly believe that creating a Middle Eastern UWC will be a pillar of hope helping spread the core UWC values across this region. We understand that the UWC stands strongly behind it ideals and for the notion that each individual needs to have a sense of idealism. We believe that by challenging the status quo in this region, the RAK UWC will create the breeding ground for new ideals to find their way into the discourse in this region.
In an area hungry for opportunity and in dire need of new ways to advance its youth we see a RAK UWC as an anchor to the introduction of new educational paradigms. Leveraging the IB will provide a launch pad for true educational and social change.
We see great alignment in the effort to create RAK UWC and the spirit by which the UWC was formed. In 1962 the founders of the UWC wanted to educate people from conflicting communities and countries, to bring on peace to the world. To effect change. They were seeking leaders who will change the course of events and would make the world a better place.
We believe that the expansion of the UWC into new countries and continents over the last 5 decades has provided a true opportunity for students from all over the world to be transformed into the future leaders, opinion and policy makers we all hope to see in our future. It is not just about bringing young people from all over the world together, it is also the unique setting, culture and diversity that each one of these schools provides. The RAK UWC will provide just that kind of opportunity and help expose this area up some more to the rest of the world.
As much as the location serves to help appreciate and be exposed to the local culture, the UWC also helps provide a safe haven for opinions, thought leadership and discourse that fits a global moral compass and does not always align with the local government or public opinion. On the contrary, the very existence of a UWC school in such an area will help drive the change we are all seeking.
We dare say that today more than ever the UWC has to be this pillar of light, the shining beacon on the hill. If we had to consider opening a school in the USA does this mean it stands shoulder to shoulder with the opinions, visa policies or foreign diplomacy bullying of the Trump administration? Does having a China UWC mean the movement supports the Chinese government policies on countless acts of human rights violations? Does the UWC support the anti LGBTQ laws still enforced by Singapore where being gay is still considered a crime? The answer to all of the above is a resounding “NO!” and it is core to what the UWC stands for, which is changing the world one student at a time.
To that extent, the reason the ruler of RAK wants to establish a UWC there is to open the education system and become more liberal. To bring in change. There is internal opposition to that, but this is what change is all about. The only way to make change is to go where change is needed. The UWC should be leading the charge on entering countries and regions where change is needed, be it a political, social or economic one.
We see the mission of the UWC as one that was built on the values of making change happen. To stay relevant the UWC must embrace its core values and open more schools where this change is a must. Opening a UWC in the Middle East is not just a pipe dream of a small group of idealistic UWCer’s. Up until not so long ago opening a school in the Middle East was part of the vision statement of the UWC organization.
In a study conducted a few years back by the UWCIO 4-5 countries were listed as potential places for the new school, amongst them were the UAE which was highest on the list. The Arab Spring changed this region forever, it also set many of these grand ideas back. Having said that, the need for change in the region has never been bigger. Even with all of the changes to the region the UAE still remains a viable option. A stable haven in the region providing all the necessary infrastructure required for the formation of an international school.
In an era fraught with nationalism, racism, biased and bigoted discussion, the role of the UWC has never been more important. The emergence of extreme nationalistic leaders in the world’s leading democracies who preach racial, political and environmental ideas that should have long been gone, require us to take a stand. We need to make our voice heard and bring that voice to the far reaches of our globe. The UWC must act to stand for its ideals at this onslaught of hatred and bigotry. Opening a school in the Middle East and in the UAE will provide exactly that kind of opportunity.
This is an opportunity not to be missed.
We are aware of another petition that objects to this important project on what we consider to be rather one-sided information. We are not contesting the facts themselves even though there is certainly a lot one can contest. Rather on their relevancy to setting up a new UWC. Moreover, much of the points relate to Abu Dhabi which is indeed one of the UAE Emirates but it is not RAK. We the undersigned call upon the UWC International Board to lead the movement and make a change in places where change is most needed. RAK and the Middle East is one such important place.
Oren Stern Contact the author of the petition
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