UN Day 2020: Keeping up the MUN spirit amid the pandemic

October 24, 2020
Shivani Chaturvedi

October 24 has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948 to mark the anniversary of the coming into force of the UN Charter on this day in 1945. This year, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the inception of the international peacekeeping organisation, the world is reeling under an unprecedented economic and health crisis prompted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

However, technology has been a saviour when it comes to ensuring learning continuity amid the Covid-19 induced mass closure of educational institutions worldwide.  

In order to ensure that the Model United Nations (MUN), the academic simulation of the United Nations — regarded as a key component of co-curricular learning in schools today — does not get disrupted due the pandemic, the first ever virtual school-level MUN conferences were conducted across the country. Unhindered by the challenges posed by the prolonged schools closure, the students and staff of these progressive institutions organised the MUN in the digital space and found innovative ways to engage audiences. 

For Nehmat Sandhu, a class XII student at Strawberry Fields High School, Chandigarh, the two-day virtual MUN held from August 8, was quite a different experience and involved great learning opportunities. She says, “We were very excited but at the same time anxious as this event was being conducted virtually for the first time. We were anxious that if something goes wrong how would we handle it? Things are much easier in on campus meetings. Fortunately, our team was so well trained that we didn’t face many challenges. Being a part of the organising committee we first decided on the selection of digital platform. Then there were six committees this year so we had an equal number of breakout rooms (it allowed us to split the Zoom meeting in up to 50 separate sessions). We also had increased number of conference staff members or the moderators, and each committee had three different moderators — first moderator recorded the event, the second took care of the chits, and the third moderator was responsible for complete verification of students which included to check if the students were entering the conference with the same id. Also, in physical MUNs we have 13 to 14 departments that work in different areas like cultural affairs, finance department etc. However, this time we didn’t have many of these departments as it was not required. Further, we had a number of dry runs.” 

Sandhu adds that it was a truly enriching experience. The quality of the debate was much higher this time as delegates from not just different parts of the country but also from countries abroad participated. She, however, thinks on-campus MUNs offer students better opportunities to learn to adapt to new surroundings and to new people. 

Sangeeta Sekhon, principal at Strawberry Fields High School says, “The MUNs are always planned by the students. We have been doing it in a unique manner annually and it has been close to students’ hearts. They look forward to it every year. The pandemic didn’t stop the students and they planned it effectively this time too. They had redesigned the entire thing that suits the virtual event and had sent us the proposal. What really worked was that we could tap much more audience. The conference attracted students from different cities and countries who otherwise would have found it challenging to attend due to distance. Also, expenditure was less this time due to virtual meetings.” She however adds that physical meetings have their own charm.    

Ranoo Pathak, MUN incharge at Mount Abu Public School Delhi says, “The enthusiasm among students and teachers was palpable when we floated the idea of virtual MUN. The transformation from on campus event to virtual was quite smooth for students as they are tech savvy generation and they pick up things fast. Also, since they were already having online study classes during the pandemic, they were all quite excited for the virtual conference. We had the two-day conference in mid-June wherein about more than 450 delegates from across the country and abroad participated to showcase their excellent oratory skills in debates and deliberations. The event witnessed a series of debates and exchange of ideas on various global issues. All the delegates demonstrated extensive research on their respective portfolios.”

Students of Mayoor School, Noida too participated in the virtual MUN conference on August 22. “Our preparations started well in advance. We focussed on having strong executive board who had good grip of the topics. Our major concern was cyber security risk. As we took all the precautionary measures, there was no such complaint from the participants. We had 250 plus delegates from different parts of the country and other countries as well. This time the access to the programme was also to classes VIII and IX besides, X, XI and XII. In addition, we had children from open schools and home schooling within the given age group. This model of MUN is more connected and inclusive as students from any part of the world could join it,” says Shikha Malhotra Sehgal, head of MUN, Mayoor School.

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