Well, it’s been quite a few months since my last post, to the clamouring hordes of my most ardent supporters your time has come (Leave me to my imagination). First things first, I’m back in my beloved United Kingdom and specifically in the town I grew up in and will forever be home, Blackburn. It has been a roller coaster of a ride so far but I’ll leave that all for another day.
I wanted to talk about something that has had a huge influence in shaping how I think and my view of how the world works, or rather how it should. High school is always a key point in every person’s life and I was no different. As an individual it showed me who I really am, my strengths and weaknesses and what ethos I wanted to shape my life around. In this department I consider myself extremely privileged to be able to attend Waterford Kamhlaba a member of the United World Colleges group from 2003-2007.
The United World Colleges is an educational movement which was founded in 1962 but Waterford Kamhlaba only joined in 1981. It comprises of currently 15 colleges that all have the same fundamental beliefs and principles. Primary of which was that the selection of students would be based on personal motivation along with their potential, regardless of any social, economic or cultural factors and ensuring its students were from a variety of different backgrounds. This would be made possible through a scholarship program to help those with financial difficulties. The goals of the schools can be summarised by a quote from Lester B. Pearson a Nobel Peace Prize laureate “How can there be peace without people understanding each other; and how can this be if they don't know each other?”
Waterford had this and more. Mere words cannot do it the justice it deserves, but I will try none the less. I could name hundreds of people who had an influence over the way the school was run, not only the teachers but all the staff including the gardeners, caterers and cleaners. Each and every person was made to feel part of a family to which they all contributed and every person was important no matter their job position. If I had to name just one person it would have to be the then principal Laurence Nodder who faithfully served the school well over a decade before moving on to Germany where he founded the Robert Bosh United World College. As many who studied under him will confirm his reign was very subtle and in that transformed a good school to nothing short of excellence.
It was in the details that Mr Nodder excelled and allowed the school to become a family. I remember two such moments like they were yesterday, first of which was the freedom to practice my religion, Islam, in a school which had very few Muslims. He sanctioned me to leave the campus every Friday for the afternoon prayers missing whatever classes that were scheduled then. It did not stop at this but he actively encouraged other Muslim students to also attend the Friday prayers. The second instance that comes to mind and I’m afraid I’ll be a bit boastful and state, I was very good at maths. My peers would always give me confounded looks when I proclaimed to actually enjoy algebra and calculus. At this young age possibly 13 or 14 I wished to participate in the Maths Olympiad which was unheard of at Waterford. This was an international competition where some of the best and brightest young mathematicians competed to solve math puzzles and I assure you it’s not your average riddle question. Mr Nodder made sure I had every facility the school could offer to ensure I was able to participate and upon doing well in the exam he led a standing ovation in the weekly assembly to congratulate me on my achievements. It was at this point I realised the school had become more to me and I would remember my time here for the rest of my life. I’m proud to say to this day students still compete in the maths Olympiad.
Being part of the WK and UWC groups has opened my eyes to a lot, from studying with people from different backgrounds, who are now all over the world, alumni of some of the best universities the world has to offer. To sharing different ideas with the countless alumni groups, on which I will shamelessly share this post and hopefully get a few reads and if lucky some comments. Over the years with more and more graduates there is possibly no country now, where there isn’t a friendly face present from one of the 15 colleges, be it to share a meal with or even lend a couch. Remember these are people from all different backgrounds and fields but have only one unifying feature, the philosophy of the UWC movement flowing through their veins.
I’d like to end this post by repeating what the late King Sobhuza II said about Waterford and added the name Kamhlaba “We are all of the earth, which does not see differences of colour, religion or race. We are ‘kamhlaba’ – all of one world.” Perhaps now more than ever the world needs to remember that.
I look forward to the day I return, if only to visit.