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The 2024 AISA-GISS: Students Share Their Perspectives

POSTED: April 4, 2024Category: Articles, NewsBY: Steve

The AISA Global Issues Service Summit (AISA-GISS), which is hosted by a member school of the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA), is a remarkable opportunity for the youth of Africa to embrace sustainability, explore different types of service, and engage in valid discussions to devise solutions to real-world issues plaguing us today. The 2024 AISA-GISS took place from the 15th – 17th of February, hosted by Al-Rayan International School in Accra, Ghana.

This year’s theme was ‘Tikoro Nko Agyina,’ which translates to ‘One head does not form a council’, a proverb emphasizing the vitality of collaboration in taking action to solve any issue. The summit brought together over 250 youth from 18 schools and 9 African countries, immersing them in the world of service, sustainability, and leadership.

THE ROAD TO AISA-GISS

The moments of preparation that heralded the AISA-GISS conference in themselves reflect this necessity of collaborative decision-making and action in dealing with real-world issues. As session facilitators negotiated ideas, working committee members grappled with the strenuous demands of their logistical roles, with dedicated staff looking over their shoulders; hence, across the board, a spirit of teamwork emerged in various spaces. Muskaan Gurbani (of the Finance Committee) recounts how committees stuck together to brace initial challenges and eventually achieve their goals. Likewise, media team member, Adam El Sayed, spoke about how “[their] team went above and beyond, filming and conducting meetings during lunch and snack breaks, as well as online, despite a hectic schedule of schoolwork and exams, all to ensure we produced engaging content and unforgettable experience for the Global conference.” Thus, with the work of committees and the preparation of student leaders, the path to AISA-GISS was painstakingly laid.

DAY 1

From the buzz and colour of the conference’s enthusiastic opening day, the voices of several keynote speakers rose. The ideas emanating from their speeches provided insightful local, regional, and global perspectives on various pertinent matters, such as education and climate change and set the tone for the rest of the conference. But most importantly, their submissions also left students with nuggets of wisdom and some insight for the future.

Speaking of impactful ideas, H.E Samira Bawumia, the first keynote speaker who happens to be the Second Lady of Ghana, an Ambassador H.E Samira Bawumia, the Second Lady of Ghana for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and a recipient of an African Woman of Excellence Award (to mention a few) spoke to students about their value to the world–reminding them of their importance as curious young minds, and emphasizing on their ability to always challenge the status quo and to dream big. These words, which resonated with participating students, made for a very befitting start to a student-led dialogue about real issues in the world today.

Out of the slew of valuable speeches by various keynote speakers, this capacity for young people to create change and succeed resonated most in that of Yasmeen Helwani, an artist who merges Ghanaian and Lebanese influences. She rose above hardships and experiences of loss toYasmeen Helwani, founder of Green Butterfly establish herself successfully as the founder of the ‘Green Butterfly’ market which is held bi-monthly at ‘Parks & Gardens.’ As a person whose day-long exhibitions have given the opportunity to a lot of loyal, talented artisans to showcase their work and support themselves, it is no wonder that her message to students was that success isn’t limited to our stereotypical images of businesswomen or men, doctors, engineers, etc, and that if they dream big enough, no matter what hardships or challenges they face, they can make a real, tangible change as well!

DAY 2

On its second day, the conference focused largely on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) team sessions, various groups that focused each on a different sustainable development goal; the business of the groups championed essential discussions and activities on the relevant goal to help committee members devise solutions to an identified issue relevant to that goal by the end of Day 2 of the conference. Seventeen leaders, trained and prepared in the leadup to the conference, facilitated the engaging and riveting sessions by leveraging various relevant discussions and activities built on the goals.

Student leaders and participants have reacted positively to these experiences. Bhavyaa Thakur, a student leader, said that ‘being a leader for these SDG sessions was truly a one-of-a-kind experience: It made me a better leader in so many ways, allowing me to understand how to connect with people better and make sure everyone feels included and seen in discussions.’ Mahima Pritmani, who led the discussion on gender equality (SDG 5), narrates how she “went for the first sustainability team session with extremely high expectations of perfection” but learnt “the very important (and cliché) life lesson of ‘going with the flow’; that letting loose could drastically improve an experience. I truly believe I’ve transformed as an individual and gained the ability to communicate with people beyond my school environment, for which I’m eternally grateful.” Speaking about his experience in discussions about good health and well-being (SDG 3), Gwong-Neung Lee of the American International School in Ghana was one of the highlights of the conference where we addressed issues like vaccine importance as well as cultural stigma surrounding mental illness. It was a great learning experience!’

DAY 3

On the final day of the conference, the spirit of service permeated every corner of the Nyikmnyikm Museum in Ada Foah, creating a sense of purpose and unity among the youth participants. ‘Service Day’ at AISA-GISS allowed the participants to engage in a diverse array of manual service activities, from revitalizing walls with vibrant colours and intricate patterns to meticulously sculpting clay into expressive forms. With sweat on their brows and smiles on their faces, they wielded paintbrushes, welding tools, and shovels with equal determination, each action a testament to their commitment to making a tangible difference. Simply put, no matter what they did, they poured their heart into making a real difference, no matter if it was small. As one of the main student leaders organizing Service Day, Zoe Ane put into words: ‘Today, we weren’t just doing tasks; we were making a real impact.’

CONCLUSION

AISA-GISS in its entirety, was a rewarding experience for all participants. Even the inevitable pressure and trying moments that come with planning a big event such as this one offer insight into balancing academic work with extra responsibilities: we do realize the value of hard work and determination for success.
To ensure a smoother conference, we have some words of advice that we’ve gained from our phenomenal experience. Firstly –and this applies largely to student leaders in any working committee– embrace the opportunities that planning for the summit offers to build the skills necessary in leading, collaborating and being resilient in the face of challenges, shying away from any tendencies to be apathetic towards roles. Next, help yourself and help others. Finally, before anything else, all students should be working together; remember that the working committees are created to make the planning smoother based on your skills and preferences, so never be afraid to ask for help, and don’t alienate yourself from other committees; a little contribution from you could go a long way for a friend!

Article Written By:
Mahima Pritmani, Bhavyaa Thakur & Adam El Sayed
Al-Rayan International School

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