Escaping the Ordinary: The Welham Boys' School Global Round Square Conference for students aged 12 – 13

By Rajbir Sandhu on 21/02/2018

Nearly 400 delegates from 37 schools participated in a vibrant and well-organized conference at Welham Boys’ School in Dehradun from 24th to 29th January. The conference had a wide range of activities and opportunities for learning, making it an enriching wholesome experience for the students.

Students and staff were encouraged to recognise and discover the attitudes and skills that will enable them to ‘Escape the Ordinary’. An excellent example of a truly student-led conference, the conference programme was specifically designed to spark inquisitiveness in its young delegates and to offer the IDEAL environment to foster peer-to-peer learning. 

The idea of the conference is to allow kids all over the world to interact, and show each other that we should stop allowing ourselves to be fit into a headline, that names us all as if we are one,” explains Sara Ramos, student from Palmer Trinity School, USA “We are different people, with unique qualities and abilities, and even though we keep being told to be ourselves, we have to find out on our own just how different from the norm we are. Then show it.

Keynote speakers included UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and Ambassador of Wild Life Trust in India Dia Mirza, Endocrinologist and humanitarian Dr Anand Gokani, and stand-up comedian Anuvab Pal. Each speaker centralised their talks on the conference theme and linking directly to the Round Square IDEALS.

Miss Mirza connected very well with the students in raising awareness and a sense of responsibility in seeking solutions for environmental issues in the world “Thank you Welham Boys School and Round Square for inviting me to speak to all these amazing children! I was happy to help them strengthen their resolve to beat pollution and inculcate environmentalism in their daily lives.” The speeches generated a lot of buzz among the students in the 16 Baraza Groups.

The Baraza meetings were a special delight, aesthetically organized in the open area with candles and lamps lighting up the very animated self reflective discussions. The deep engagement of the students was all too visible as they shared their views and ideas with each other.

The Service Day consisted of community service and interaction in 6 different places in Dehradun. “The raison-d'etre of Round Square is to develop leadership qualities in children and mould them into future leaders,” says Ritu Nautiyal, Round Square Rep at Mayo College “Considering that the quintessential quality of leaders is empathy, what could be a better way to inculcate this quality in young minds, than to expose them to the live situations beyond the comfort zones of their daily lives.

The students visited Raphael Ryder Cheshire International Centre for Special Education, Mahila Asharam for Destitute Girls, Bajaj Institute of Learning for Hearing and Speech Impaired underprivileged children, Prem Dham an old age home. A special Sports Meet was organized at Welham playground for slum and street children of AASRAA Trust. The delegates assisted them in practice sessions of the athletics events and also co-managed the entire Sports Meet which culminated in a community lunch for all wherein the delegates helped in the preparation and serving of the food.

One of the major highlights of the conference was the Pledge taken by all the 400 delegates on the banks of River Ganga in Rishikesh to “Never contaminate rivers and seas with garbage, plastic or chemicals” and to “encourage friends and families to conserve Water and Earth”.

The Ganga Arti and the Pledge motivated the students to be the solution to the issues affecting the environment and become the change that they wanted to see in the world. “All the delegates were singing and enjoying the view of the Ganga, raptured the senses and etched a revered memory in our mind,” says Shayak Nandi, student from Pathways World School “A memory, we would like to cling on, forever.”

The Adventure Day highlights were Mountain Biking, Rappelling, Rock Climbing, and Trekking in the hills in 5 different Camps, “I liked the rock climbing the best because it made me overcome my fear” said Agrani, student at Daly College. The celebration of the Republic day of India and a Fete organized exposed the delegates to the culture and cuisine of different states of India. There were Astronomy sessions, a fun filled evening with a Standup comedian Anuvab Pal, Skills learning opportunities like Bakery, Potters wheel, traditional art of Dyeing, Paper Recycling, Motor Mechanics, Sign Language, Palmistry and a multicultural evening, all of which kept the students engaged in fun and learning experiences.

The Conference concluded with a formal closing ceremony. The conference statement was a message for the delegates to live life fully and mindfully, to question and raise one’s voice against wrong doing. To lead an extraordinary life, we need to navigate challenging situations with grace and ease without fear of discomfort. Our identity must not be limited by geography. We must create a world without walls which is full of peace, love and harmony.

The Global Round Square Conference was magnificent. The host school did justice in terms of it planning and execution. We Look forward to more opportunities like these,” says Bhavdish Saxena, teacher, Pathways World School.

Globally Accessible Conferences for this age range are a fantastic opportunity to develop vital soft skills such as communication, teamwork and resilience in younger students, and we hope that more Round Square schools are encouraged to participate in these fantastic opportunities in the future. Round Square schools that would like to register delegations for the March 2019 Round Square Global Conference for 13-15 year olds hosted by Rockport School can do so now.