Chris Howarth, Founder of United World Schools (UK, AC 68-70)
A different school of thought
Atlantic College changed my life. This did not manifest itself until I was in my mid fifties but change my life it did. A seed that had been shown on the cliff tops at St Donat’s Castle was to germinate, in fits and starts, coming to fruition in 2005 as I moved my life to the remote northeast districts of Cambodia.
I consider that I have a global responsibility.
I fail to comprehend that a child born on one side of a line is more important than the child born on the other.
I want to ‘serve’ and use skills, developed over 35 years, to help provide education for those yet to experience that privilege.
I chose to take up a position, placed by VSO, as the Education advisor to Ratanakiri Province.
Here I quickly realised that for many children education is not a ‘human right’ but an impossible dream. This unique country continues to recover from half a century of war, including 4 years (1975-1979) during which the majority of two generations were eliminated by Khmer Rouge atrocities; over 2 million people. Ratanakiri is the poorest Province in this country. Only 32% of children in Ratanakiri attend school and of these only 4% complete their schooling to grade 6 (11 years old).
My VSO placement was a learning experience. I made little positive impact working in a different language, culture and with documents I could not read. However after 2 years I felt I had sufficient understanding. Spurred on by the Millennium Development Goal of ‘Education for All’ by 2015 I founded United World Schools.
We will help to build 50 village community schools in 5 different countries and partner these to schools in the West.
I hoped to celebrate 50 years of UWC in 2012 by building 50 simple community schools that serve those that have never had an education.
UWS aims to
- Bring children and young people, of different cultures and environments, closer together.
- Create an opportunity where more privileged schools around the globe can assist those less fortunate.
- Create an opportunity for less privileged people to have more control over their development and emerge from the surrounding poverty.
- Support the UN Millennium Development Goal of ‘Education for All’.
How do we do this?
- Give underprivileged people the opportunity to build their own community schools where none existed before. Train the community leaders as ‘school managers’ and assist teachers.
- Build 5 clusters of 10 schools in underprivileged areas around the globe.
- Unite these schools with partner schools, including UWC, around the globe.
- Facilitate the exchange of teachers and pupils.
- Establish a teacher training opportunity for the local people
- Seek financial assistance and scholarships which allow for the less privileged to attend partner schools and UWC.
- Create a life-skills programme that allows for cultural celebration and gives economic opportunity with a link to the western economies.
What has UWS done?
- Targeted Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia as a pilot area and host to the first cluster of 10 schools.
- Established a very strong relationship with the local education authorities in Ratanakiri and with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Phnom Penh.
- Built 6 community schools in Ratanakiri with number 7 under construction. These schools are partnered with schools in the UK and United World Colleges. In partnership with the Provincial and District authorities selected all sites for the 10 school cluster.
- Developed partnership with United World College, Atlantic College and UWC RC Nordic. These Colleges will support 5 community based schools.
- Hosted an education project for 10 students from UWC Adriatic.
- Facilitated education expeditions for the teachers and students to participate in educational activities in the remote villages of Ratanakiri. UWC students will work in their schools during the 2nd year vacation times and others will participate in longer projects as a UWC third year.
- Selected indigenous women from UWS supported villages to be trained as teachers by UWS staff.
- Sought scholarships to allow a number of Khmer students to attend UWC.
- Sought partners, including the Royal College of Art and free trade organisations, to help develop the life-skills programme.
- Provided Khmer text books to 20+ schools who lost all books after the Vietnam hurricane floods.
- Commenced research to select the host country for the 2nd cluster.
The future. What we will do.
UWS will complete the Cambodian cluster of 10 community schools and ensure sustainability. A school in Cambodia can be built for £10,000 and sustained for £3000 per year. £50 will proide a school with text books. The Cambodian cluster will be established as an educational model of good practice.
We will continue to train and support teachers in the indigenous villages and develop the leadership and management skills of the schools management teams.
We will ensure sustainability of all UWS schools through cooperation with partner schools and hopefully other UWC.
We will seek to promote cultural exchange through visits and educational project work.
We will develop a life-skills programme enabling each village to generate an income to support their own school.
We will select the host countries for further clusters and commence development. We will use the Cambodian model as a spring board, but appreciate cultural differences and respect national identities.
United World College Links
I left Atlantic College 40 years ago and headed for the Newquay beaches to work as a lifeguard. I was idealistic, enthusiastic but above all totally commited to the UWC principals. Now as I near the magical age of 60 I remain as idealistic, enthusiastic and commited. However now I can invite other Colleges and individuals to join United World Schools and seek to build 50 schools in 5 different countries. The idealistic dream is to link these to UWC. Our reward in Cambodia is the privilage of seeing 3000 children attend school for the first time. With help we can do the same in other countries around the globe. To celebrate 50 years of UWC; let’s make this happen.
-United World Colleges Student Magazine-