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Inspiring Change

20 September 2018

By Soraya Sayed Hassen, Head of UWC Mahindra College


As we embrace the UWC theme of inspiring change for this year, most of the adults on our campus are probably in need of inspiration ourselves. While much has been said about the pressures on students to grow into model adults and the real risk of burn out and disillusionment, it is gruelling work to educate eager UWC students who have signed up to be change-makers. Faculty and staff can often feel like they are stuck in a never-ending cycle with the same problems and same issues which take on a more complex hue every year and never seem to get fully resolved in the meetings that never seem to end.  How can we cultivate courage and freedom while providing safety and structure? How do we help students pursue individual excellence while forging community? And then how do we innovate our educational methods so that we can produce students better equipped for a continuously changing world and with greater awareness and creativity?

Change, if it is for the better and wishes to be enduring, must be contextually appropriate, be it geographic, temporal, or cultural, and must be self-critical and reflective, always going back to the Why. We have to tread carefully so that we do not, through our particular-tinted perspective, bring about change which is measured by a yardstick which not relevant or acceptable to the communities in which we live.

This year, the theme Inspire Change is an opportunity for MUWCI to turn its gaze inwards and think about the UWC mission statement and the raison d'ệtre of the College onthehill. As we embark on our 21st year of existence, we look to the partners around us in rural Maharashtra.  Besides teaching how to bring organic and sustainable farming practices in the region at Gorus, or how to support rural schools for greater educational impact at Akshara or how to provide support and care of differently-abled adults at Sadhana Friends, these partners also inspire us with their contextual awareness, time-tested dedication and commitment, and willingness to keep engaging with different perspectives. They remind us that change to towards a more equitable, sustainable, and just world is possible and the ways in which we can work with others on this journey.

We talk a great deal about change even in the community onthehill. Our diverse student body bring into our Global Affairs programme, our College Meetings and our heated discussions across all areas of Residential Life a rich variety of ideas and topics related to bringing about change. Each year, whether it is the faculty or the students, everyone comes to campus with fresh ideas about how they want to bring about change in the world and on campus. This is re-invigorating and refreshing and that urgency and drive needs to be protected. But even here it might be important for us to recognize that change needs steady effort over time, which always seems to be ticking. On UWC Day, we will have a panel discussion during the College Meeting with key local change-makers around their personal journeys and to hear about the thoughtfulness, lasting passion, and openness with which they approach changes in their lives and in the communities where they live and work. So yes, let's inspire change and work towards it but in a way that unites people, fosters peaceful communities in the long run, and is sustainable.