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Okinawa High School Launches United Nations Club

By: Kelly Smith

Date Posted: 1999-11-13

Okinawa City’s Kyuyo Senior High School became the first public school on the island to host a United Nations Club last month. Its Principal, Mr. Hiroshi Uezo officially permitted the formation of an English United Nations Club to serve as an extra-curricular forum for interested students.

For the past weeks since the club was launched, student members have been meeting every Friday for one hour to discuss the United Nations and world affairs under the guidance of two teachers, Ms. Masayo Ishikawa and Mr. Jerry F. Burks. During their last UN session held last Friday, November 5th, the students made presentations on several Asian countries, based on research work assigned to them by their UN Club supervisors. Japan, Thailand, Nepal and Malaysia featured prominently on the list of countries that the Kyuyo High School Club members examined from all relevant angles.

During a presentation of Malaysia, for example, students Natsuki Takoa, Yuka Uema and Satomi Miyajima gave a high level lecture in English that took into account the history, social structure, political highlights and religious composition of that Asian nation. Mr. Jerry Burks, who is an English Expression and Foreign Affairs teacher in the Senior High School, has taught his Club members how to analyze a nation, and how to read the world through each country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and revenue per head of population.

In demonstrating their comprehension of the issues at stake, the students brought up comparative facts that would help distinguish one country’s economic strength from the other’s. The United Nations Club students learnt, for instance, that Japan was far wealthier that most of its Asian neighbors simply by looking at recent statistics that put average revenue at $22,700. That is, compared to cases like Malaysia with $10,750, Nepal with $1,100 and Thailand with $840.

According to Mr. Burks, the main purpose of the club is to support the International English Course of the school, while providing the students an opportunity to improve their language skills and knowledge of the world as the 2000 G-8 Summit approaches. Club members also hope to get a better understanding of international cooperation and peaceful negotiations in the language that the world body uses most.

“We hope that these students will be able, in a few weeks, to tell everyone what the UN really is, when it was founded, the member countries, Japan’s Ambassador to the UN, and so on,” Mr. Burks said. “I’m also teaching them how to apply data such as average life expectancy and GDP to better analyze the problems of each country and to identify what’s unique about each country. And they’re doing all of that in English…”

The club President, Namiko Arakawa and the Vice-President, Rina Tonomori, are both 2nd year students of International English at Kyoyo Senior. They are hoping to learn more about how the UN functions when it comes to topical matters like the exploitation of women and children in war situations, the verification and enforcement of conventions on nuclear biological and chemical weapons, the penalization of war crimes, etc. Together with the other members, they are also hoping that their school club will participate in the model United Nations that Kadena High School will host in March 2000. If things work out well for them, the Kyuyo Senior club would form the Economic and Social Council that examines issues as crucial as the strategies for assuring biodiversity on the planet, strategies for the containment of virulent diseases, and the issues concerning an aging and growing population in the 21st Century on earth.

“Beyond the G-8 Summit, which is our primary leitmotiv, we’re effectively looking at that Model UN opportunity,” Mr. Burks revealed. “Our students have expressed an interest in using such a forum to express themselves and to test their knowledge of world affairs with other international students. It is something we’re still considering, and we think it could be a very positive forum for them. Our school authorities will advise in due time.”

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