by Cricket Dadian
Four Walls students captured the first place prize last month at the South Africa Model UN International Conference in Cape Town, competing against nine top teams from each province of the country. Sophomores Samantha O’Sullivan, Ella Weiner, and Eliza Zizka, and junior John Nugent—who also won a Best Speaker’s Award—represented China in a debate on two issues: (1) how the international community should respond to terrorist attacks on cultural artifacts and sites, and (2) whether the International Criminal Court has an anti-African bias. This was the third time Walls has participated in this competition, sponsored by Education Africa.
SWW humanities teacher and Model UN mentor Taneka Parascandolo accompanied the students to South Africa. She points to Walls’ partnership with GWU, which has provided Model UN coaches over the past few years, as one important reason for the team’s sucess. This fall, GWU undergrad Mackenzie Fusco coached the team in preparation the for Cape Town meet.
“But the students deserve all of the credit,” Ms. Parascandolo says. “They worked on their own to research, write, and develop an effective strategy.”
DCPS funded the SWW team’s travel and other costs of participation in the competition; the team thanks John Davis and the DCPS Central Office for this support, as well as Principal Trogisch, who “advocated tirelessly for the funding,” according to Ms. Parascandolo.
Being in Cape Town also offered a priceless opportunity to learn about the history of South African apartheid. Cape Town had once been a “Whites-only” city, with Black citizens isolated in townships on the outskirts. The team members visited a Black township where they could clearly see the legacy of segregation and oppression in the poverty that persists more than 20 years after apartheid ended.
Equally eye-opening was the trip the students took by ferry to Robben Island, where the apartheid government detained political prisoners and where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated for his leadership. They spent the night on the island, where they saw Mandela’s cell and participated in a simulation of what it was like to be a prisoner there. On the last day of the trip, the Model UN teams received their competition prizes on the island. The team also took tours of the beautiful Cape region, including Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope, and met up with fellow Penguins at Boulders Beach on the Cape peninsula, home to a large rookery of the real thing!
To share their experience once they returned home, team members led a simulation about freedom, pretending to be prison guards as the “prisoners” were forced to write, 50 times, “I am trapped in this room. I am not free. I am unworthy of freedom.”
Later in November, the SWW team will compete in the William and Mary Model UN Conference. And in March 2016 is the Washington Area Model UN Conference, where they look forward to reuniting with South African students who became their friends in Cape Town.