By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English
Bedales was delighted this year to be one of the schools represented at the 51st Round Square International Conference in India. Al McConville and I were joined by two 6.2 students, Freya Leonard and Anton Ellis, on the trip. It was Bedales first delegation to the five-day conference, which this year was attended by 1000 people – 700 students and 300 staff – from all five continents.
For three days, the conference was hosted at the Emerald Heights International School, a boarding school on the outskirts of Indore that has 4000 students in total. Student delegates from around the world slept in the school dormitories. Over the course of three days, we saw all the keynote speakers, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner who works to end child slavery, a Government Minister (in opposition to Modi) and Madam Ghandi, a feminist musician.
Other highlights included a presentation with an AI robot. In between speakers, the students broke into Barazza groups to discuss issues relating to this year’s conference theme, ‘the world we wish to see’. We also spent time meeting other delegates, learning about the Round Square organisation, and meeting representatives from other schools that might wish to arrange international exchanges with us in the future.
We spent a day sightseeing at the city of Mandu, where we visited a beautiful mosque which is now a historical site of interest, rather than a working mosque. We also saw some impressive forts and palaces overlooking lakes and hills. We spent nearly six hours travelling to and from Mandu, which gave us time to observe Indian life and culture from the windows of the bus. It was fascinating – families of four riding on mopeds, Tuk-Tuks behaving like pushy, rude teenagers, and cows sitting on the road. At one point, our coach had to reverse to allow a chicken and six chicks to cross safely!
Another day was spent doing service in the morning and sightseeing in the evening, and there was one very early start with a run for charity alongside Blade Runner, the first Indian to run with a prosthetic foot! Al, Freya and Anton got up early to join him, and a tree was planted to honour the occasion.
We had a very long journey there and a long journey home, so we are now looking into carbon off-setting for the trip, which seems particularly fitting as climate change and air travel was a hot topic amongst delegates.