by Nasir Ahmad Dar
The last month has been a surprise for me. I have been getting regular news on my Facebook newsfeed about the students of the valley getting selected for the International Conferences. The reports were covered even in the most reputed news sources of the valley. I got a lot of people asking me about these events and how they get selected. The real surprise for me was when the people started to say that these students were going to speak at the United Nations.
Well, I don’t expect all the people to know the reality but to see that some of the intellectuals were sharing the news without checking the reality shocked me. The worst was that the reputed newspapers which operate on state and national level published the news continuously without even having a look at the background of these conferences. This is what compelled me to write about these conferences and put reality in front of you all.
UN or MUN?
Almost all of the people and the social media news hubs published this news in a manner that it seemed as if these students were actually going to United Nations Headquarters to address the delegates from across the globe. Let me explain the difference between UN and MUN.
United Nations is an international organization which takes care of the affairs of the world. It has many branches and these branches have been ascertained with their respective tasks. United Nations accepts delegates from all across the globe. Each country sends its delegate to represent that country in the United Nations. But these delegates are chosen by the government of that country and usually, these people are civil servants who have qualified Foreign Services of the respective nation.
Now MUN, on the other hand, means Model United Nations. This is a program organized around the globe by different institutes. MUN is a copy of the United Nations with no significance at all. An MUN has similar bodies as those in the United Nations in which the students turn up as delegates. The only importance it has is that it serves as a platform for the young students who want to be the part of the international delegations in future or who want to take part in International affairs going into their future. MUN is organized all across the globe. It is organized in India, Pakistan and other Asian nations also.
MUN serves as a platform for the exposure of students and that is it. The voices raised in these events are similar to the voices raised in debates organized by literary societies in different colleges and universities all across the globe. The college festivals organize these debates to provide exposure to students so that they can be vocal about certain issues in their lives. College festivals happen in almost every college once or twice in the year. These college festivals work as PR agents for these colleges as these fests bring students from all across the country. These festivals also bring a little revenue to cultural societies as well.
MUN is a similar phenomenon which is organized by the MUN societies of colleges in order to increase the reach of these schools, colleges or universities. These MUNs attract many students and provide an in-depth visit to these institutes. These MUNs also serve as a source of income to these MUN societies. However, the MUNs earn much more than a normal debate competition.
The normal fee for the registration to a debate competition is Rs 100 while as the lowest possible registration fee for a MUN is around Rs 2000. The MUN is a dignified debate competition. The students consider themselves to be delegates for their respective countries and the organizers earn a good fortune out of it. This has been happening for a very long time now. MUNs are no surprise to anybody. They are not even new to anyone. The MUNs not only earn from the registration fees but they also earn from the sum generated by providing the accommodation to the delegates.
The International Delegates?
Now the question is about the “International Delegates” of the valley of Kashmir. The answer is simple: Revenue. As I mentioned earlier the organizers of these MUNs earn hefty sums by virtue of these events. Now if a MUN happens to be an international level MUN the sum earned multiplies manifolds. The average registration fee for an international level MUN is the US $400 that becomes around Rs 28000. This is the amount paid by just one delegate. Moreover, this sum does not include accommodation and travel charges. The students who want to be part of these MUNs have to arrange their own travel as well as accommodations. The total expenses go over Rs 100000. This is a huge sum.
These MUNs earn millions of rupees and it is not difficult for them to post ads on different social media platforms. They do it easily and the audience they target is that of the Indian subcontinent. Most of the students who were selected in these events will attend the MUNs in Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia.
Firstly these countries have nothing to do with actual United Nations, secondly, the organizing bodies of these countries know that can earn a huge sum if they target the ignorant youth of the subcontinent. The ads published by these MUNs appear on different social media platforms regularly and the students enter their details on the given link. Now since the organizers have to keep their repute they send an email which mentions that “Congratulations! You have been selected for the international conference in Malaysia. You have been selected out of a list of 22000 applicants”. If we apply common sense we must realize that if these events were of actual repute around the world they would not be posting ads on Facebook. When was the last time you saw a sponsored post by actual United Nations seeking applications for international delegates? The answer is simple: Never! These organizers send these emails to fool our youth and unfortunately, our young and over-enthusiastic youth felt prey to their trick.
As of now, it seems that all the students of the valley who have been selected for these conferences are over-excited about getting into these events. The newspapers and other social media platforms have given them huge fame. They have decided to go and attend these conferences.
I talked to one of the guys who got selected for one such “International Conference”. He belongs to a very humble background can hardly earn bread for his family. I congratulated him for the being selected in the conference as I did not want to discourage him by telling the truth. I moved ahead and asked him about the costs involved. He said the travel cost will go over Rs 50000 and adding the other sums the total expenditures will easily cross a hundred thousand rupees. I asked him if he will go to which he replied he is looking for the possibilities. I knew they were constructing a new house. So I asked him if he would be able to arrange the sum in these tough times. He said he could afford the sum but that would halt the construction of his house. I advised him to stop looking for the conference and instead try to complete the construction by investing the money in a more meaningful way. I told him to concentrate on building the house instead of the conference. He took the advice and decided to give up his hope of attending the conference.
The above paragraph should make it clear why I decided to write this article. Imagine if that guy decided to take the sum and invest it in, somewhat, useless and meaningless conference instead of building a house. A house that his father had dreamt of, a house that his family had shed their blood and sweat upon and a house which even he needed badly could not have been built if he decided to go. This is the case of almost every other student selected for these International Conferences.
I was heartbroken to see immense hype given to these conferences which mean nothing at all. The hype did not break my heart but the fact that our young generation of the valley does not know the reality of the world. The fact that our youth cannot distinguish between UN and MUN worried me a lot. I wrote this piece just to make these young guns aware that MUNs mean nothing. They are just a source of income for these organizing bodies. And the only way they can serve you is a little exposure which, if you work hard, you can get it while living in your own state.
I write this article here to tell to the entire valley that I feel sorry that we don’t know anything about these organizations. I feel sorry for our education system. I feel sorry for our schools, colleges and universities which have failed to organize such events in their respective institutes so that our over-enthusiastic youth would have been made aware of such events. I studied in Delhi and I have been the part of many such MUNs and the only benefit I got was that they sucked my money. I would prefer debates anytime in my life but not MUNs. MUNs are just luxurious debates where you wear a suit just to feel like a delegate which represents any country.
We need to educate our youth in the valley as much as we can. There are surely some completely sponsored fellowships and international events but to get into these events you must have immense experience and optimum capabilities. These events are not everybody’s cups of tea. There have been some students even from our valley who have been selected in these events but they are very rare and these students work very hard to get into these conferences. They don’t sit on Facebook all the time. They don’t pay heed to sponsored posts on Facebook to get into international conferences. They work on the ground and get selected. They spend their nights and days outside the valley and attend conferences, meets and town halls arranged by different embassies and the United Nations. They make their Resumes strong by working in different national and international organizations. They spend all the time looking for such opportunities. They organize debates, symposiums and MUNs by themselves and increase liaisons in the actual international level groups. Only after working very hard and proving their mettle they earn a place in a fully sponsored trip or conference to foreign countries. And I would like to congratulate all of these students who have earned such places from an otherwise distorted valley of Kashmir.
The need of the hour is proper education in the valley. The conflict in the valley has created an immense confusion here and this confusion has forced our youth to do these stupid things. I would like to request to all the newspapers and social media news outlets to please avoid such news without checking the facts properly. You need to realize that your news can have a huge impact on a person in general and on a family in particular. We need to make people aware of these events by organizing our own. We can organize MUNs and debates in our valley also and make our students capable of going into real international conferences. The schools, colleges and universities of the valley need to come forward with an action plan to build their own events which would provide optimum exposure to the students. There is an utter need for youth talks in the valley where these young and talented students would deliver lectures.
It is never too late to make a start. Our valley may be lagging in many things due to different reasons but we can make it up easily. We can start today to make our youth capable. Our valley has a huge pool of talented youth which can actually make a difference. These talented students can be our future stakeholders and play significant strategic roles. We need to mend them and bring them forward. But for all this to happen we need to act now and we need to act swiftly.
(The author is a freelance writer. A resident of Baramulla, he is currently a student of M Tech at Desh Bhagat University. The ideas expressed are personal)