Five years ago, African Leadership Academy’s inaugural Model African Union (ALAMAU) was established to simulate the activities of the African Union, offering students a platform to develop credible solutions to the continent’s development challenges, while building vital diplomatic and international relations skills.
Following the format of the African Union (AU) and Model United Nations (MUN), ALAMAU is an intense, 5-day experience in which students are immersed in the rigors of research, debate, comprehension, presentation and negotiation – all the while seeking solutions to complex socio-politcal issues.
While stretching their cognitive and critical thinking skills and their powers of negotiation, ALAMAU also offers students a chance to explore the city of Johannesburg and enrich their social interactions by connecting them to their peers from across Africa and the globe. This year, 12 schools participated from nine African countries, including two schools from the United States.
It stands to reason then, that this annual conference adds immeasurable depth to young learners’ leadership skills. But the advantages and benefits have proven to extend even further. Themed “Foundations for a Sustainable Future”, the 5thannual ALAMAU triggered responses from Advisors (teachers who accompanied the student groups to the conference) that attest to the longevity of MAU’s ideals.
Tema International School (TIS, from Ghana) teacher Alex Sitsofe Tay, envisages a big problem in how to manage his group at next year’s conference. “The students who’ve been have already started campaigning for ALAMAU 2019, so we’ll definitely have a much bigger group,” he relates. “MAU is incredibly well organised and much more detailed than MUN, according to students who have been to both, and most of TIS’ students had won awards at MAU (six formal and eight informal awards), which is driving their determination to return, and motivating others to join,” explains Mr Tay.
“The students soon realized that the programme was neither a tea party nor a Jamboree.”
Most Advisors were awestruck at the level of organisation, not least because it is entirely student-run. “I was impressed from the first correspondence I received from the Chair of MAU. It was most impressive that the ALAMAU is student-led and that I had minimal correspondence with adults,” ventures Mrs Tinhiko Nkuna, Deputy Headmistress of St Mary’s School Waverley (South Africa).
“It was the most well-organized, experiential educational program I have ever attended,” adds Mr Adewale Jacob Akinwunmi, Head: Co-curricular Activities and Community Service Engagement at Corona Secondary School (Nigeria). “I must confess I was dazzled by the organization of the learning experiences which keep all the delegates actively and cerebrally engaged throughout the duration of the program. The depth of ingenuity, human and material resources that went into planning and execution of different aspects of the programme was awesome. The students soon realized that the programme was neither a tea party nor a Jamboree.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Elizabeth Walugembe of Rainbow International School (Uganda), who were first time attendees. “The sense of responsibility emancipating from each and every student who had any responsibility was awesome! I do believe that ALAMAU is a very good forum for future leaders.
“The sessions compelled them to express themselves, which aided in boosting their confidence. The girls had insightful discussions with other delegates that created a networking system that promoted international cooperation.”
The impact of MAU can extend far beyond the five-day conference and inspire young future leaders to further action. Mrs Maryam Mutallab Duba, Founder and Director of Noble Hall Leadership Academy for Girls (Nigeria),reveals that the girls have developed a regimen at the school – which attended its third conference this year – of taking responsibilities and providing guidance to their schoolmates. “Our best graduating student of last session is making an impact in her university due to the leadership traits she was able to garner at Noble Hall and from the conference,” adds Mrs Duba. “The conference always serves as an eye opener for the girls. It gives them to ability to know that age does not matter in trying to make a difference in this world.”
Some take it even further, relates Mr Akinwunmi:“I know of a student, Mohammed Aisha, who attended the programme last year and was inspired by the experience gained from the ALAMAU to organize an interschool leadership summit, tagged: Vision 2020 For Nigerian Youth. She domesticated the methods used by the organizer of ALAMAU to make a success of this summit.”
Spurred into Action
The impact can be immediate and intense, and spur an entire school to action, as Mrs Nkuna reveals: “This experience will definitely shape them for the better and it has begun to do so already. Upon our return, one of my learners expressed that she was experiencing an existential crisis; that she did not know what she was doing at St Mary’s. She was deeply touched by her experience at the ALAMAU and she was expressing her realisation that she is African and that she wants to be a part of our continent and contribute positively to our future. She expressed what I felt too upon our return to school. I have begun a club known as the St Mary’s School Lekgotla (Lekgotla means court or council in Sesotho) in which we will be dealing with various issues during the course of the year, including preparing for the 2019 ALAMAU.”
The Lekgotla already has direction, adds Mrs Nkuna. “Our first project will be focusing on the South African National Development Plan 2030 alongside the United Nations Social Development Goals. This project will be designed as a collaborative problem solving challenge. Nine of the 10 girls that participated in ALAMAU have voluntarily signed up to take part in the Lekgotla – the 10th candidate is not able to participate as she has demanding rowing obligations. This definitely illustrates to me that they see themselves as solution finders and builders in our country and continent.”
How has ALAMAU impacted on you? Share your experiences on our social media pages.
If you’ve yet to attend, note that entries for ALAMAU 2019 are now open: Register here.