International YRS Conference in SA

 By: Jade Carstens tourismZA

Round Square is rooted in the theories of the experiential educational philosopher Kurt Hahn who believed that schools should have a greater purpose than to prepare you not only for college but for life. According to Hahn students prepare for life by facing it and experience it in ways that would demand courage, generosity principle and resolution. Round Square is a global organisation of schools which ultimately seeks to empower students to become the leaders and guardians of tomorrow’s world. Sharing a commitment to personal growth and responsibility through; service, challenge adventure and international understanding.

yrs 2014 logoThe Young Round Square Conference was a gathering of approximately 340 young delegates aged between 12 and 13 from over 80 schools arriving from all corners of the globe. This number included 160 students from surrounding rural communities that were hosted at; Camp Discovery. They were introduced to the conference theme; “EndAngered” and a workshop was presented by Anri Landman which focused on our ecological footprint and sustainable positive development using; the e-ball -a homegrown South African product- as an example of an creative environmental initiative.

Stuffing the ball with discarded plastic waste taught the children about environmental responsibilities. Playing with the e-ball once it was stuffed helped to strengthen social bonds and understanding through team-building. In their free time the children enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact with people their own age from different cultures and backgrounds, whilst experiencing the unique history, culture, wildlife and hospitality that South Arica is known for. The event took place from the 4-10 May 2014 and was co-hosted at Camp Discovery by Dainfern College – a leading school in Johannesburg. This was the first conference of its kind for Round Square and was a memorable event to all who attended.

brian-dawsontourismZA caught up with Brian Dawson –Executive Director at Round Square – and talked about the purpose of the conference, its objectives, the relevance of hosting it in South-Africa.
Dainfern College a Round Square school just outside Johannesburg offered to be the host school. South Africa was given the chance to host the first ever Young Round-Square Conference because it is an affordable host venue for an international conference. This and because a relationship exists with Buzz which made planning and delivery so much easier. Africa is an exciting international destination with opportunities to explore the Round Square Ideals of internationalism, Democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership and service

This was the first time that Round Square has hosted an international conference of this size for a target group of 12 to 13 year old learners. This was therefore an opportunity to test the feasibility and generate a template for conferences like this one into the future.

The conference itself provided an opportunity for young students from around the globe to experience Round Square on an international level.

tourismZA was invited to supply e-balls and present the Earth Ambassadors’ project as part of the conference because the e-ball fitted in well with the environmentalism pillar of Round Square. The e-ball initiated a great deal of interestYRS delegates with e-balls and provided an opportunity to carry the message of the conference back to Round Square schools around the world.

The conference succeed on many levels including the three primary objectives; first, the conference was successfully delivered and schools should be able to return to their regions and share the success of the event which will encourage future participation. There is now a point of reference for future Young Round Square conferences. There is structure and we have feedback to improve the delivery and to assist future organisers.

The greatest success of the conference was the opportunity for young students to experience Round Square on an international level. It was no different to the “older” conference. The young delegates surprised with their ability to mix from the word go.

As was to be expected, the adults were able to share professional knowledge and found this to be very valuable.
Initially there was some separation anxiety on the part of the adults who were (understandably) nervous about not seeing their students at regular intervals especially in a foreign country. This soon diminished as they became comfortable with the supervision of the delegates by Camp Discovery and the work of the YRS Facilitators, and with the development of a routine when they were able to meet at specific times. Certainly the experience changed many perceptions of South Africa is portrayed by the foreign media for the better.

Never underestimate the power and ability of young people to engagement with current global issues. They have ability beyond our estimation. They need support and guidance to release their undoubted potential.

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TZA would like to thank Brian Dawson, Helen Bramley, Carien and Thias Taute for the opportunity to include the e-ball and the Earth Ambassadors’ project as part of this inaugural Young Round Square conference. We wish Round Square the best of luck with their future events.e-Ball header