Up close and personal with ALAMAU’S NEW face, Ms Maya Schkolne

Ms Maya 2

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?”

“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”

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

Committe Chairs
Committee Chairs – ALAMAU 2019

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!


Committe Dynamics.jpg
Committee Dynamics Team – ALAMAU 2019

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)

New Phototastic Collage
Tea or coffee? She likes both!

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:

  1. Log onto our ALAMAU official website ( http://www.alamau.org/apply )
  2. Read the application checklist 
  3. Fill in the Application online and also note the key dates (you can apply as a single delegate or as a committee)
  4. Submit and encourage your peers to register as well!
  5. 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






10 Things You Need To Know About ALAMAU 2019’s Chairperson, Asha Guled

Asha Guled

Intelligent. Determined. Humorous. Humble.

These are but a few words to describe ALAMAU 2019’s phenomenal Chairperson, Asha Guled. Assuming her role in March 2018, Asha has been hard at work to make the ALAMAU 2019 conference the best conference in its history. Last week, Press Corps decided to catch up with Ms Guled to find out more about who she is. Through 10 amazing questions, we aim to unveil who Asha really is, personally and professionally, as well as her dreams and aspirations for ALAMAU ahead.


1. Firstly, we would like to know: who is Asha Guled? Perhaps give us a little background information about yourself.

My name is Asha Guled and I’m a student at the African Leadership Academy, Chairperson of ALAMAU 2019 and a fun fact about me is that I stem from various backgrounds. I am most notably of Somali descent but born and raised in The Netherlands. I have also lived in Somalia, Kenya and the United Kingdom, and I currently reside in South Africa. My rich backgrounds have nurtured me to speak various languages and accommodate knowledge about numerous cultures and traditions. Apart from travelling, I also really enjoy being in the kitchen with my father, exploring fashion, and creating my own crafts.

2. Where did your love for International Relations begin and what inspired you to be a part of ALAMAU 2019?

I believe that my love for International Relations blossomed out of my interests in understanding systems. I’ve always been captivated by the how’s and why’s in our world, be it understanding the social structure of an ancient civilisation or figuring out why velour tracksuits were ever a thing (they never should be a thing!). Political systems seem to shape our livelihoods, our roles as citizens, and at times our values. I find this to be very intriguing, and so my love for International Relations and ALAMAU is largely inspired by my fascinations with the impact that it can have.


3) ALAMAU’s new theme has just been revealed. We want to know what progress you think that Africa has made so far? Also, how can we leverage from this progress so that we can create a sustained future?

Over the past decade, Africa has made notable strides in several sectors. Through the

Asha Guled 3
“To truly reach this vision [of an Africa with sustained, positive change], we need to all be able to go there together”
implementation of sound financial policies, we’ve seen significant poverty reduction in countries such as Ethiopia and Rwanda. Politically, we have seen longstanding presidents resign and Kenya recently became the third country in the world, and the first in Africa to have a presidential election nullified. Quite evidently, some African countries have made great progress and they are taking the vital steps towards reaching the Africa we envision.

But to truly reach this vision, we need to all be able to go there together.  This could be done by encouraging policies that are beneficial to numerous countries, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. The sharing of knowledge and resources can also greatly influence other countries’ progress, as we see with the Customs Union of the East African Community which encourages free trade zones in the region and encompasses various sectors such as health, customs and immigration and labour.

4. What can the delegates expect from the 2019 conference? What is different? What’s new?

In ALAMAU 2019, we expect to have more young leaders from Africa and across the world to join us for the conference, diversifying the opinions in our committees and broadening the networks that our participants get to create.

Delegates and advisors alike will encounter improved preparation programmes prior to the conference. Our Director of Delegation Preparation and Research and the research team at large have been working hard on redrafting delegate and advisor programmes to enhance their committee experience.

In ALAMAU 2018, we spoke of how we can build the foundations for a sustainable future. This year, the theme of ‘Leveraging Africa’s Progress for Sustained Growth’ shifts our focus from creating foundations to creating progress. We recognise the advancements that Africa has made, and will discuss how this progress needs to be leveraged and replicated to create concrete change.

Outside committee sessions, we should also expect to see a more intercontinentally diverse cultural night and a spectacular gala dinner, with a new theme!

These are but a few of the new things we should expect to see in ALAMAU 2019. Regardless, ALAMAU 2019 still promises to hold many fruitful conversations, memorable experiences and long lasting friendships.

Asha Guled 2
All Smiles with Ms Guled

5. Away from the formal conversation, we would like to know a few things you like to do. For instance, your favourite television show?

Breaking Bad has been one of the best series that I have gotten the chance to watch. The scripting is incredibly natural and relatable whilst the storyline always keeps you on your toes. Who doesn’t like hearing about a middle-aged high school teacher turned drug lord? I also enjoy watching Vikings because it visualises a folktale in an imaginative way with a captivating storyline.

6. Your favourite subject at school?

Despite the fact that I have chosen to drop this subject in my A-levels, history continues to be my favourite subject. It’s a tale of humankind, with different species, civilisations and cultures that existed and continue to exist. Although history favours those who write it, it still remains a field of study that allows us to identify patterns, and more importantly, it allows us to enter other worlds.

7. How about your favourite food?

Rice with banana. Before you judge me, you won’t know how amazing it tastes if you haven’t tried it!

rice and banana
The Classic Somali Banana and Rice 

Eating warm meals with banana is a common practice in Somalia. It provides the perfect balance between sweet and savoury, and it is a staple in every Somali household. No matter where I am, eating a warm meal like pasta or rice with banana immediately reminds me of home, and so it is easily my favourite meal.


8. If you were an animal you would be?…

Who knew that she was a Cheetah fan?

A cheetah. I once had two pet cheetahs, Laila and Kays, and they taught me how gracious, caring and fierce cheetahs can be. They were both very much (eventually) liked by everyone they met. This is the type of character that I would also like to have: an individual who is bold and fast in achieving what she desires, whilst also getting along with those around her.


9. If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

I’d choose to be mentiferous. Mentifery gives someone the power to turn their thoughts and imagination into reality. That way I’ll be able to think of ending world poverty, and it would end! I could also imagine eating an infinite supply of lasagna (my second favourite food), and afterwards, I could picture myself having a six-pack. Perfect!

10. A Piece of advice to the prospective ALAMAU 2019 delegates?

Having been to numerous MUN conferences around the world, I would argue that two main things are needed for you to have the best experience as a delegate: quality research and confidence. Scratching beyond the surface and researching past the headlines (and past the first link to Wikipedia), is essential if you want to understand your topic. This allows you to be flexible in the committee room and permits you to come up with thoughtful solutions. Considering that technology is not permitted in the committee rooms, I would also suggest that all your research is printed and organised in a file.

All of this information means nothing if you do not have the confidence to deliver it and deliver it well, so trust your abilities and you’ll see yourself performing superbly!


And there you have it. Sound, solid and bold words from our Chairperson to kick-start the excitement as ALAMAU 2019 begins to unfold. Surely, from the way things look, this conference is going to be beyond spectacular.

Be sure to check out more bi-weekly updates from this blog as we introduce new faces at ALAMAU and give an exclusive sneak-peak of the topics that will be discussed in this year’s conference. 

Don’t forget to follow our social media platforms listed below for more exciting updates leading up to the conference.

Written by Katai Mutale, Director of Press Corps.