School of thought

School of thought

A network of colleges around the world that helps promote peace and understanding celebrates its 50th anniversary this year

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(From left) Student Richard Lui, Arnett Edwards, principal of Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, and student Salme Mutwafy.
(From left) Student Richard Lui, Arnett Edwards, principal of Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, and student Salme Mutwafy.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP
Kenyan Salme Mutwafy is one of 23 students from Africa at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, set in a tranquil part of Ma On Shan. Salme, 19, a secondary-school graduate, had been accepted to the Nairobi School of Law at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

However, she decided to attend the college in Hong Kong, which has 256 students from 80 different countries.

"I chose to study in this school because I agree with its belief in diversity and community service, and that everyone is expected to make a difference in the world," Salme, who is in Grade 12, says.

Li Po Chun is one of 12 schools and colleges within the global network of United World Colleges (UWC). The UWC, which educates students aged two to 19, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It focuses on providing a challenging educational experience to inspire students to create a more peaceful and sustainable future.

UWC was founded in 1962 by German educationalist Kurt Hahn at the height of the Cold War - a time of political conflict between the East and West. Hahn thought the world could overcome the intense hostility if young people were brought together to work towards the same goals.

This idea led to the opening of the first school, Atlantic College in Wales, Britain, in 1962.

The college in Hong Kong was established in 1992. "We're not just a school; we're part of a movement to promote peace and a sustainable future in the world," says Li Po Chun principal, Arnett Edwards.

"By putting young people with diverse backgrounds together in a shared learning and collaborative environment, they can learn to become champions of peace."

Edwards says students are selected on merit, not on their racial or economic background. And they are encouraged to explore their interests and passions outside the academic world, he says.

Hongkonger Richard Lui Mang-hao, 16, is excited by the opportunities provided by Li Po Chun. "Every Saturday I give English lessons to a group of mentally challenged children," he says.

"I've also taught children in Lianan and Guangzhou, and in Cambodia. I'd have never done that if I'd not come to this school. It's great every student is asked to do something outside the classroom. We set our own goal and reflect on it when it's accomplished."

Salme is a keen facilitator in the global issues forum, held after school every Thursday. "We discuss all kinds of issues, from poverty to fair trade to environmental problems," she says. "Students from different countries are able to bring in their perspectives and talk about what happens back home."

The students' diverse backgrounds have certainly worked for their benefit, she says. "We've learned to respect each other much more, and also appreciate our own identity more. As the only Kenyan in the school, I feel like I'm the representative of my country."

Richard says he has found his direction in life. "The school has changed the way I think," he says. "As a typical Hong Kong student, I had this idea I should grow up to be a professional, like a doctor or a lawyer. Now I realise it's important to follow my passion and use that to create a difference. I've found the thrill of life."

Salme agrees, adding: "I have a desire to give back to the community. What defines me is not money or our background, but a citizen of the world; I'm part of something better."

Li Po Chun is now open for registration. For more details, go to www.lpcuwc.edu.hk

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