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Global Debates for a Global Future

February, 2011
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Students from Yew Chung International of Beijing have been getting their political minds in gear through involvement in a year-long initiative held by the United Nations Foundation. The UNF Global Debates have challenged the Year 10 and 11 students on current world issues that many young people may be presently unaware of. The scheme has been giving high school students and their teachers an opportunity to participate and initiate public discussion specifically around critical international matters. Students have finally had the chance to put their arguments to the test, focussing on the plight of migrants and whether "Nations of the world should increase protection for migrant’s economic and social rights."

With only a few hours before the debate, the students were given the angle which they needed to argue against. At the forefront of the heated debate are Year 10 students Annabelle McCombe and Jun Ting Yeung debating against Year 11’s Anthony Guo and Gemma Golding-Duffy who are in support of migrant rights.

The students are using a specific ‘migrant’ case study to focus on their debate - the migrant situation in Yemen. YCIS Beijing students have extensively researched into Sudanese refugees fleeing to this country and the fact that many refugees who lost their rights are displaced internally or have to migrate to another country.

"The reason we chose Yemen as a case study is because it is current and it is happening. The policy rights of the refugees are very specific and they are granted automatic asylum," explains Year 11’s Anthony and Gemma.

According to the YCIS Beijing ‘Migrant Plan,’ rights such as identity, basic living conditions, equality and education are essential factors that need to be addressed, so that "refugees are treated like human beings."

They propose that the UN should provide security measures and economic grants that could convince the Yemeni government to accommodate the refugees and not displace them again.

"Most of us believe that it is important for the nations of the world to protect migrant rights, and to a certain extent the United Nations should provide aid to these countries. But local governments should also take responsibility," said one YCIS student.

"The Global Debates are important as it they have  made us start thinking about issues out there, raising awareness, and creating action through change," explains Gemma, having researched into the situation in Yemen as well as facing her own problems. Living in South Africa before Beijing, Gemma explained "I experienced xenophobia on a first-hand basis having seen attacks."

Similarly, other students have moved from countries as far as Turkey, North America and Australia and empathise with the migrant situation.

Year 11 student Anthony described: "It was really difficult moving to a different country. We all see ourselves as migrants so we understand how migrants are affected when they move away from their homes," having visited Inner Mongolia whilst being on an ‘Experiencing China’ trip. “Migrant people are like refugees, with an uncertain present and even more uncertain future,” according to the YCIS student team that encountered children who have been away from home.

The practical aspect of the debate includes The Global Debates Community Project, in which YCIS Beijing has been building partnerships with schools that predominantly support migrant children.

YCIS Beijing has built a special relationship with Xi’an Hope School and in November the students organized a two-day sale to raise money to buy electronic equipment. "We bought webcams for them so that they can communicate with us face-to-face," says Gemma. The students from both schools were communicating via letters in order to maintain their friendships and to improve the English language ability of the migrant students in Xi’an.


By Suswati Basu

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