Debbie Fordyce and Global University students at the TWC2 office

From the Ship

Improving global competence through Peace Boat's Special Global University

Sep 15, 2016

"I have been working with Peace Boat for 14 years" says Akira Kawasaki, Director of Peace Boat's Global University, a unique educational programme that takes place at sea during Peace Boat's Global Voyages. Through two weeks of onboard lectures and field programmes in ports, Peace Boat gives young students from around the world the opportunity to think deeply about the responsibility they bear as global citizens and how they can build solutions to various pressing global problems.

"Listening to others, and listening to ‘all those affected'" is the guiding principle of Global University. Discussions, workshops and role plays are central to the onboard seminars. At ports of call, students visit local communities to hear about how their life have been affected by issues, such as urbanization and globalization, conflicts, and environmental degradation. Nile, an August 2016 Global University participant says, "Global University teaches things we can't learn from textbooks. For example, when it comes to the relationship between Japan and Korea, or the conflict in southern Thailand, we can never really know what it's like without listening to people who are actually living it."

For the Global University programme that took place in the Asian segment of the 92nd Global Voyage, 12 students from Japan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, China and Thailand sailed from Japan to Singapore. The program began with a field programme in Tokyo, where students discussed how poverty and discrimination are systematically incorporated into the governance and maintenance of the city. As part of this programme, they worked with a local NPO to take part in a night patrol of Shinjuku in central Tokyo, distributing flyers about medical consultations to homeless people. In the next port of call Taiwan, the group met with the indigenous Ami people, and learned from them about the emotional price of social dislocation, and about the history of Japanese colonization of Taiwan. Students were invited to experience their indigenous food, dance and costume. Through these experiences, the group reflected on the meaning of preserving one's culture and traditions in this era of rapid globalization and urbanization.

Onboard, resources persons referred to as "Navigators" facilitated lively discussions and exchanges of opinions leveraging their expertise. Professor Lynda-Ann Blanchard of the University of Sydney provided theoretical frameworks, including structural violence, negative and positive peace, as well as social dislocation, through which students could critically reflect upon their experiences at ports of call. Mr Oshidari Kenro, former Asia Regional Director at the United Nations World Food Program, led various simulation exercises to help students understand what it means for governments and other stakeholders to negotiate various options and coordinate their actions in time of crises. Professor Kim Kyungmook of Waseda University led various action-oriented activities, including the "Onboard Challenge," where students were tasked to come up with ideas to improve the ship environment so that diversity is more rigorously incorporated.

As Peace Boat docked at Singapore, the group disembarked the ship and participated in a two-day programme featuring workshops and lectures focusing on social cohesion, migration and sustainability. The first day started at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), where students participated in a workshop testing their global competency. Dr Michael Chang, who facilitated the workshop, put the students through several missions, checking and rating their competence level after participating in the intensive course. After this experience, 19-year old student Yusuke shared that "I feel like I have a lot to practice, because even more than language skills, I think confidence and global knowledge are the most important skills for international communication." In the second part of the workshop, students worked together with the international students from SIM. Using games to explain culture, the students enjoyed their time together beyond language challenges and cultural differences, learning more about their backgrounds and contexts.

In the afternoon of the first day, the group made its way to "Little India", an area in Singapore where many foreign migrant workers gather on weekends. There they met with John Gee and Debbie Fordyce from Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), an organization promoting fair treatment of migrant workers in Singapore. At the TWC2 office, the group met workers coming to seek help from the organization. Debbie introduced the students to some of the migrant workers' personal stories, exposing the main issues facing migrant workers in Singapore. "The biggest difficulty facing the migrant workers is when they actually decide to fight for their rights. In that case, for example, if one gets injured, and claims compensation from their employee, they will be ineligible to work until the lawsuit is settled, which can take several months. And that's where TWC2 steps in to provide assistance in the meantime". As the programme took place on a Sunday, students were able to meet many migrant workers who gather in the area.

Throughout the programme in Singapore, students were pushed to think about whether some types of security may be more important than others, what sustainability means and whether the answer depends on who you ask, and the meaning of human dignity in many of these contexts. "Everything in the sightseeing books is about how fancy Singapore is, how smart this country is, how quickly it is growing," says Nile, "but the books never mention the people from Bangladesh that build this with their blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes their life. …If we keep looking at the buildings, and ignoring the people that build them, the buildings will collapse."

The programme in Singapore marked the end of the intensive two-week program. The students built strong friendships among themselves, nurtured the skills to pay attention both to the theories and the voices of those affected, and renewed their passion towards affecting change to the world.

Global University programmes take place regularly on Peace Boat's Global Voyages. We look forward to welcoming more and more enthusiastic young students to join us!