Among the passengers waiting in the Jinnah International Departure Lounge are a head boy, a head girl, a school house captain and four prefects. From them, four have already been admitted to their top choice colleges (Yale, Cambridge, McGill).
This is the Karachi Grammar School Model United Nations delegation, which is for the first time attending the annual Harvard Model United Nations, being hosted in Beijing, China from March 15 to 18. That explains the departure lounge tensions, as the school prefect body and three other final-year A’ Level students fuss over routine checks in preparation for their nine-hour flight to Beijing. No one is more hassled than History teacher Ayesha Shaikh, who can be heard on the phone counting and recounting luggage. “We’re extremely excited about this three-day conference organised by Harvard,” she says. “Top schools and colleges from across the world will be competing, so it’s very exciting.” Final-year A’ Level student Sophia Ashai is a combination of stress and excitement. “I have to research on my country, finish a computer project and study for my mocks all the same time – I have no idea what I’m going to do in China!” Still, she muses, “It’s a nice way to end this year, visiting a new country.”
This isn’t the first time this team has left Karachi though. According to Head Boy Shayaan Abdullah, “It’s kind of ridiculous how much I’ve travelled with this team, to MUN PK in Islamabad and LUMUN in Lahore.” And the team bonding reveals itself in the way Ashai offhandedly says, “How do I know these people so darn well?” Or in the way Areeba Tariq often refers to the team as ‘family’. For some, it’s all about the country. Faiz Khalil jokingly says, “Chinese food was probably the biggest incentive in joining up in the first place.” There is plenty of excitement: “On our first day there we get to see an acrobat show – how cool is that?”
Meanwhile Omar Mahmood has packed a reference book on Beijing just so he knows where “exactly” he’s being taken. Though the conference itself lasts three days, the trip is ten days long, with the Forbidden City and Wall of China on the list of places to visit. For some though, it’s about the conference. Saad Ahmed Khan, who cannot stop saying how excited he is, refers to himself as the “underdog”. “I’m probably the least experienced on this team, even though I’ve won at MUN IBA,” he says, “So this MUN is going to be a challenge. I just hope my partnership with Omar works out for the best in our committee.” Akasha Sarwar is excited about the “change of faces in China”. “In Pakistan it’s always the same kind of people from similar backgrounds debating,” says Sarwar. “But imagine representing the country Germany as a Pakistani, and then actually meeting German kids.
That has got to change perspectives.” KGS is one of many schools from Pakistan that is attending HMUN, which include Bayview High, Aitchison College, Headstart, Roots and LGS. Still, the relatively small scale of Pakistani schools attending this competition is only just beginning to hit. Pride, both personal and for the country, is what’s on everyone’s mind right now. Says Ayesha Shaikh: “We’re just hoping to bring back some good news for Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2012.