I can still recall the moment I received the email from the African Leadership Academy, inviting me to attend their boot camp on the 26th November 2016. My cheeks were flushed with enthusiasm and eagerness. I visualised a younger United Nations, an event with future leaders discussing pressing world issues little did I know that this would even be greater.

The boot camp was more exciting and interesting because I don’t think they do fun team building activities at the UN general assembly. At the start, we formed groups of 5 based on matching shoe sizes or the number of siblings. Our groups were challenged to build the tallest tower using spaghetti, tape, a marshmallow and a meter-long string. It seemed funny and impossible at the start but we made a breakthrough. The marshmallow challenge taught me the importance of teamwork, strategy formulation and patience as a mechanism of perfecting ideas.

After the team building challenge, we had a short but effective lesson on good leadership, what it meant and how to become one. We were taught that to be a good leader you had to believe in yourself, understand the problems of the people you are serving, innovate, lead and develop for the better of the majority. The guest speaker gave a very motivating speech during which he said, “Great leaders do not set out to be leaders but they set out to make a difference. It is never about the role but it is about the goals”. I found it to be so inspiring and uplifting.

Thereafter, we were placed into different groups. These groups were now based on people’s passions and goals for Zimbabwe and the world at large. Each group had a name and a mission statement (which states the goals and how they will be achieved). In our groups, we had to name problems and then identify the root problem. Then, we had to brainstorm solutions to our root problem and then make a presentation of our most effective solution to our root problem.

I found this to be quite educational, as each one of us knew something that the next person wasn’t aware of. The group activity had us involved in analysing the strengths and limitations of our passions, truly opening our eyes to elements of leadership that we had never taken into consideration before. This enlightened my mind with the realities of the issues that we are facing. Meeting and befriending like-minded people was an honour. It made me aware of the massive community of intelligent, innovative and absolutely fantastic people around me. It is a constant reminder that there is still hope as we are fighting towards a common goal, towards the same great future, and together we can and we will bring about the change we need. We now have each other’s backs and we would help each other to grow further in whatever they would like to accomplish, where possible. I find that keeping in touch with these people is essential as ‘YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE PEOPLE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH’. They will enrich my mind as I constantly share ideas with them.

The day ended with a very uplifting speech from one of the past students from the African Leadership Academy. She said, “Leadership is not about the titles or positions but it is about one life influencing another and making a positive impact on lives.” We were challenged to go out into the world and transform the world into a better place using the power of education. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Written by Ropa, Upper Sixth at Hellenic