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Round Square: Leaders in the making


Brookhouse School shapes future servant leaders

On 12th February 2013, Brookhouse School made history by hosting the first-ever presidential debates in Africa at their Burudani Auditorium. However, it turns out that this milestone in democracy and leadership resonates with what Brookhouse has been training students for through their membership of Round Square, an association of over 100 schools spread around the globe.

“Round Square focuses on holistic education that transcends the curriculum,” says Brookhouse School Director, Mr. John O’Connor. “Students have to do well not only academically but also develop a commitment to internationalism, democracy, outdoor adventure and a focus on leadership,” adds Mr. O’Connor who also serves as Round Square Regional Director in charge of Africa. To achieve these goals, Round Square operates on six principles, summed up as the IDEALS: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service.

Every year Round Square hosts conferences at various levels: International, Junior, Regional and Young Round Square conferences are held on a worldwide rotational basis to provide forums for the practical acquisition of extra-curricular skills. These student-led conferences witness up to 1,000 participants.

Brookhouse head girl, Laura Ekumbo witnessed her first Regional Round Square Conference in 2008 when the school hosted participants from around Africa. She noted that whilst they had different ways of thinking and speaking, they all held a common perspective on issues affecting them. “… [In the end] we were able to drive the entire conference by ourselves and in the process learn oratory and inter-personal skills,” says Laura, who intends to delve into Psychotherapy as her career choice for the future.

“All the activities and projects of Round Square are student-generated and we have been doing so for the past eight years that our school has been a member,” says Mr. Willie Ng’ang’a, Brookhouse School’s Round Square staff representative. “Letting students develop selfdrive, determination and self-expression,” he adds, “accomplishes the goals of the association.” Consequently, he confirms noticing an acquired confidence in the character of his students which he attributes to this exposure.

Internationalism being one of Round Square’s tenets, Tejas Gorsia in Year 13 recounts his experience at Wellington College in the UK, whilst attending his première conference. Besides learning to find his way in a multi-cultural setting and having fun, he honed several life skills. “Going to Sandhurst Academy on adventure, I learnt how to better interact with people and as head boy, I can now easily relate with students of all ages from different cultures,” he says.

Imaan Himid, also in Year 13, was at the Wellington College conference too and coming from the small island of Zanzibar, she found the experience a real eye opener. “Having an opportunity to meet a diverse group of young people [like me] confidently articulating socio-political affairs in an international forum gave me a voice. I can now speak for myself,” she says.

Imaan also reckons that her time at a Round Square school like Brookhouse has enhanced her preparedness to address challenges facing her continent. In matters pertaining to the environment, she has realized that Africa has so much that needs to be done compared to first world countries she has been to.

Back home in late 2012, Tejas and Laura were fortunate to be part of the Brookhouse Round Square team that worked at Kuwinda slum in Karen setting up a library and donating Christmas gifts to the underprivileged children.

Tejas recalls how touched he was by the poverty the children at Kuwinda faced and for him leadership acquired a new definition. “Leadership for me now became the influence you have to serve others, not the authority you have over them,” says Tejas.

“Having an opportunity to meet a diverse group of young people [like me] confidently articulating socio-political affairs in an international forum gave me a voice. I can now speak for myself, ”

For Laura, it was the universal language of reaching out to the less fortunate that influenced her. “I was amazed at how quickly the children we interacted with responded to us and within no time we were playing together with them.” She admits that previously she wouldn’t have freely interacted with people she didn’t know.

Round Square also gets students to participate in environmental conservation ventures such as clean-ups, the annual Rhino Charge and the Hog Charge, which advocate for preservation of the environment. Some students also venture into individual projects such as the ‘lion lights’ deterrent system developed by Richard Turere, also a Brookhouse student.

According to Mr. Ng’ang’a, Round Square has been fortunate not to have encountered the hiccups that face other organizations in terms of finances, membership and logistics. He states that subscription for membership is already large and many schools around the world want to join each year.

To be considered for the conferences, students apply and selection is based on participation in leadership and community service.

Last year between April 2nd and 8th, Brookhouse School hosted the Round Square International Conference 2012 themed ‘no existence without co-existence’ which brought together students from around the globe.

Among the questions raised in governance was: should a ‘modern’ African leader be authoritarian in the face of tribalism and division? Even though not all the answers to the questions were provided, Laura got something out of it; “Self-awareness is an invaluable thing. I also learnt that leadership is all about service [to the community not oneself].”

The 2013 international conference will be hosted at St. Andrews School, Boca Raton in Florida starting on October 6th. Students will keep discovering the world and making a difference in whatever means possible, all the while preparing for the future. Mr. O’Connor sums it up by adding, “It is how you expose and challenge the minds of young people that make them reach out to the wider society.”

About Round Square

Round Square is founded on the theories of experiential educational philosopher Kurt Hahn who believed schools should serve a greater purpose beyond preparing students for college and university. The first conference was held at Gordonstoun School, Scotland in 1967 and the group that met called themselves ‘The Round Square’ as a tribute to the old building in which they met. The Round Square currently has a flourishing membership of 100 global member schools, led by a Board of Trustees with His Majesty King Constantine of Greece as President.