x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Teenage UN diplomats take on world

After a heated debate, 16-year-old Rikus Van Eeden reached a deal with Iran. In exchange for trade and co-operation, the Islamic republic would limit its hostilities towards Saudi Arabia.

After a heated debate, 16-year-old Rikus Van Eeden reached a deal with Iran. In exchange for trade and co-operation, the Islamic republic would limit its hostilities towards Saudi Arabia.

If only real geopolitics could be resolved so efficiently. The UAE schoolboy was one of 450 pupils from schools around the region who took part last week in a model United Nations in Amman.

The experience of Rikus, a South African, and his 19 classmates from Cambridge High School in Abu Dhabi look set to be replicated around the country, as the United Nations Association trains teachers and headteachers at 19 other schools to run UN clubs.

Nine have been trained so far, according to Prabha Sinha, one of the teachers behind the project at Cambridge High. She said they had been spurred to start the club by interest from pupils who had seen similar groups in their home countries.

Peter Lugg, the school principal, admitted he had been reluctant at first. "We already had a lot of clubs running in the school," he said. Two years on, the UN club has 120 members and a waiting list.

Ms Sinha is convinced of the benefits. "Their public speaking, researching and debating skills have developed," she said. "They have better awareness about world problems and social responsibilities."

But almost as important, says Rikus, is the social side. "I see it as a leisure activity rather than a burden - and it gives me the chance to mix with like-minded teens," he said.

 

osalem@thenational.ae