Admissions: in the Face of Diversity
Working in Admissions you are always reminded what a desirable school WK remains to so many. It is truly humbling to see the MP Hall packed with over 250 students applying for far, far fewer places. This is a scene that happens twice a year on campus and then is replicated on a smaller scale in Gaborone, Harare, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Maputo during direct recruitment weekends, in Maseru, Harare and Bujumbura when selecting in partnership with our leading donors and of course at UWC NC selections across six continents. Working in a region with so few alternatives makes it even tougher to reject so many and should motivate all on the hill to make the most of the opportunity and never take their place for granted. Our student body is the most diverse in Africa which clearly means that our prospective pool of applicants is even more varied, interesting and far flung! There are many routes that one can take to be a part of this community and we hope that as our partnerships with exciting supporters grow, so too will the accessibility of the school to those that would appreciate the opportunity the most. After all, international diversity means very little without socioeconomic diversity.
The diversity of educational backgrounds of interested parties in terms of language, resource, opportunity and many other measures means that identifying who is likely to be most successful here is more challenging than in the average school. Pinpointing â€˜potentialâ€™ involves selecting students who have excelled in their specific context as well as some intuition as no test can treat our vast range of applicants fairly. The biggest rewards come when those who we â€˜riskedâ€™ offering admission to graduate with flying colours and gain generous scholarships at top universities. Our first intake of IB students from Burundi courtesy of the Capernaum Trust springs to mind as a good example. Three young men with little English saw pictures beamed onto a wall for the first time during my WK Powerpoint presentation in Bujumbura, came to Swaziland two months later, made fantastic progress and added so much to the educational experience of all on campus.
Having visited a number of National Committee selections in the region including Zambia and Zimbabwe one really gets to appreciate the value of local people, familiar with context, selecting their fellow countrymen for the UWC experience. These NC volunteers do a fantastic job and we particularly appreciate those that make the effort to widen their pool and increase awareness of UWC amongst previously marginalized groups â€“ only then can we have maximum impact and live up to our mission.
WK also continues to benefit hugely from being the school of choice for many of the movers and shakers in Swazi society and the wider region. Indeed many families from as far away as Nigeria and Uganda are prepared to fly their children to campus for an entrance test and interview! Leading professionals in their fields from both the local and expatriate community look to WK to educate their children; while most of our bursary contingent is destined to be first generation university students from their family: clearly this mix adds real potency to the WK cocktail. As we reach out further to more rural and remote areas we are also intrigued by the way our more â€˜traditionalâ€™ society members challenge the assumptions of those more westernized in a whole host of areas that surface during big events like Peace Day or Human Rights Day, as well as every day down the hostel wings. But I am sure the students themselves are far more qualified to comment â€“ something that is often the case at WK!