There is something great about new beginnings.
Each new beginning brings new experiences, lessons and most importantly, people. With ALAMAU 2019 underway in a few months, we have had a few new additions to the team. One of them being our new research coordinator, Ms Maya Schkolne.
This week, Press Corps decided to catch up with Ms Maya to not only to know who she is but hear about her experiences, tips and advice for ALAMAU 2019 conference delegates (take note, delegates!). In this blog post, get ready to dive into Ms Maya’s incredible background, her sea of qualifications (there are a lot of them!) and also a wonderful tip at the end of the post!
1. Let us begin with the obvious but most important question: Who is Ms Maya? Please tell us a little bit more about yourself, where you grew up, and the experiences that have made you who you are today.
To begin, I would like to quote a line from the poem, Ulysses, that says: ‘I am a part of all that I have met’. I believe that encapsulates how I see myself: a person shaped by the amalgamation of people and experiences I have been so fortunate to meet and have.
My name is Maya Schkolne (the spelling is more challenging than the pronunciation, I guarantee!). I was born in Israel/Palestine and lived on a kibbutz – a socialist commune. I moved to South Africa with my family when I was young and grew up in the mountainous city of Cape Town.
It’s interesting to note that both my country of birth and country of residence are layered with human rights challenges and questions related to the creation of enduring peace and justice. With this in mind, I have aimed to engage with their political realities in both formal and informal civil society spaces. I have also tried to realise the notion of global solidarity by gaining a broader perspective of Africa, the Middle East, and the world. I have lived, studied in and done internships in different countries, most recently of which was the United Kingdom where I obtained my Masters in Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. I also interned at the connected Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice in London.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone and developing new skills and longstanding partnerships through these experiences have undoubtedly made me a fuller person.
2. What is your role in MAU 2019?
I am the research coordinator. That means that alongside the Deputy Chair, I help support the ten committee chairs in developing their Study Guides, each of which delves into the topics that their committees will be focusing on.
3. Why did you choose to work for MAU 2019? What excites you about next year’s conference that made you say, “Yes I want to be a part of that team?”
Truth be told, I didn’t necessarily know that MAU would be a project that I would get involved in, to the extent that I have.
When I joined ALA in August 2017, MAU was introduced to me and it sounded both really exciting and at the same time really complicated! However, in time with the guidance of the brilliant MAU Program Director Mr Faith, I realised how much potential it has.
ALAMAU not only introduces young people to the very real and pressing issues facing our continent but also allows students to learn tangible skills that can be replicated in diplomacy and governance, including critical thinking, research, writing and public speaking skills, as well as project management and administration skills.
In terms of my role, it excites me that the research side of the project is expanding and we have made adjustments to accommodate it. For instance, previously, research students only had 60 minutes of class time a week to work on their research. Seeing that this was insufficient, we agreed to use full class time, to increase the quality of their work. We hope this model works effectively and can be used in the years to come. I am also excited for other new ideas to come to fruition, including the commitment from the Committee Dynamics team to preparing delegates and advisors for the conference in ways that we have never done before.
4. Where did your love for international relations begin? Is there any particular event in your life that sparked it?
I grew up interested in politics, believing that it has an effect on all of us, whether or not we choose to acknowledge that. This drove me to do a range of things that have expanded my interest in and understanding of international relations.
One of my first experiences was in Cordoba, Argentina. I went there on Rotary Exchange for a year straight after high school and studied journalism in Spanish. I was compelled to speak and read in Spanish! This was challenging as I had never received any formal training, but it also provided a more authentic lens into the formal and informal politics of the country and South America.
Further on in my life, I pursued politics in my tertiary studies. My studies in Spanish, Politics, Media Studies, and Environmental Science for my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Honours Degree in Transitional Justice and the part of Refugee Law all contributed to my growth in international relations.
Internships in places such as The Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) in Johannesburg and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) in Cape Town where I researched the role of civil society in Transitional Justice processes increased my knowledge on how international relations affect justice in our societies.
Not to forget hands-on experience with the people. For instance, I spent eighteen months at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel/Palestine, where young Israelis, Palestinians, and Internationals live together and study the conflict and trans-boundary environmental issues. This was a very impactful period of time for me, where I realised more deeply the effects that decisions by states have on everyday human experiences and the environment.
5. How has it been working with the Deputy Chairperson, the Committee Chairs and the Committee Dynamics team so far? Any challenges? Fulfilling moments?
As we know, ‘MAU is a huge project; it is one of ALA’s flagship programs, so there is a lot
of pressure to deliver high-quality work. In order to achieve our aims, challenges are inevitable! It was especially challenging to come up with the conference theme and thereafter to identify ten connected, current, pressing topics. Nevertheless, I feel incredibly confident in our Deputy Chairperson Moitse Moatshe, who has been 110% committed to her role!
Each of the Committee Chairs have their individual flair and passion, so I have really enjoyed getting to know them, and I’m also very happy that they’ve shown each other support and have viewed the process as a team effort. The Committee Dynamics team have also far surpassed my expectations and I am sure they will deliver a fantastic press core experience and will prepare everyone really well for the conference. Ultimately, I believe in all my students and gain genuine fulfilment from seeing them push themselves and grow through the process.
6. This year’s theme is “Leveraging Africa’s progress for Sustained Growth”. What conversations should the delegates look forward to having in committee sessions in this regard? (Perhaps, you could give us a sneak peek of topics featured in the next conference).
Last year’s conference was ‘Foundations for a Sustainable Future’, so this year takes it to the next level and not only asks where (in Africa) are clear problems that we can tackle and opportunities that we can harness, but where we can build progress on that which has already been made? There are so many exciting directions that this can take, which is why it was hard to narrow it down.
As such, you can expect timely and fascinating topics, ranging from fostering climate-resilience in Africa to improve food security; to enhancing intra-continental trade by building on the progress made so far by the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement; to improving maternal health through innovative solutions such as the Rwandan ‘RapidSMS’ system that connects community health workers to pregnant women.
7. Let’s break away from the formal conversation and learn a little bit about your preferences. Tell us, Tea or coffee? (Please give reasons why one over the other)
As my students will know, I am without a doubt a big coffee fan. I developed my appreciation for coffee from my father and love a strong, black Americano. I have however been trying to cut down, and in turn, have cultivated an appreciation for ginger tea 🙂
8. If you were to be a colour which one would you be and why?
I would like to think I would be lavender. Even though I don’t always feel it, people say I generally seem very calm. I think lavender is a gentle colour that exudes that sense.
9. A Quote that you live by…
This is an excerpt from a longer quote by author Arundhati Roy: “To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away.”
10. Final message to delegates, any research tips maybe?
Carefully read the Study Guides! If you know your content well, you will be able to speak with authority in the committee sessions and accordingly will stand out immediately. Not only does this provide you with a competitive edge but it also makes the entire experience more fun: You don’t have to spend so much time figuring everything out; you can rather jump right in! While reading the Study Guides, if you have any question or confusion, please do reach out to the Committee Chairperson. They want to hear from you and it’s another definite way to indicate your eagerness. Also, take advantage of all the extra support that we want to give you in advance of the conference to get prepared. We want you to arrive on Day One and feel like an actual diplomat ready for a high stakes conference!
What wonderful words and sound advice from to end this blog post! Ms Maya and the entire team are certainly putting their best to make this conference more interactive, fun and above all, impactful.
With conference date drawing closer and closer, our registration deadline is drawing closer with it. Want to be a part of the ALAMAU experience? Here are some steps to get involved:
- Log onto our ALAMAU official website ( http://www.alamau.org/apply )
- Read the application checklist
- Fill in the Application online and also note the key dates (you can apply as a single delegate or as a committee)
- Submit and encourage your peers to register as well!
- Feel free to scroll through the website to know more about ALAMAU!
Note: Registration has 3 deadlines
First Priority: 30th September 2018
Final Deadline: 15th October 2018.
Late Registration: 16th December 2018.
Stay glued for the next couple blog posts which will focus on a few topics that will be discussed at the conference!
Written By Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps
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