Robert Bosch University in Freiburg, Germany is an establishment like no other. It belongs to the United World Colleges network, founded in Wales in 1962 to promote peace between peoples. There are 18 in the world, and Die Zeit went to meet the students and teachers of the Freiburg branch, where young people from 80 countries live together. Mathematics, biology and political science are taught there. “Most importantly, students learn to communicate across cultural, religious or social barriers.” highlights everyday life. In all establishments in the network, the parents’ income is not a criterion. In Fribourg, more than 90% of students are scholarship holders and, even though tuition fees are 33,000 euros per year, a third of them pay nothing.
The university’s key values are the fight against the climate crisis and against war. But since February 24, since Russia attacked Ukraine, the situation has been delicate.
Lisa Volkova and Mariia Horodyska, two students from Moscow and the Lviv region of western Ukraine, respectively, struggled to communicate. Finally, they turned to a common action – the sale of key chains – in support of Ukraine. This might sound ridiculous. Exactly, “Being a school for peace and international understanding, after all, aren’t they just pretty phrases?” ask everyone in the establishment.
Laurence Nodder, director of Robert Bosch University, decided not to interrupt the curriculum during the invasion of Ukraine, but encouraged dialogue and student mobilization through campaigns and demonstrations. He also sent aid to Ukraine via the two university cars and received two Ukrainian refugees at the facility. It must be said that he has a unique journey. Die Zeit says
“He grew up as a white man with all the privileges of the South African apartheid system. As a teacher in training, he broke with the regime, refused military service and fled to Lesotho. In the following years, he worked in schools that brought together black and white youth and, as a teacher, he met Nelson Mandela, who attended one of these schools.
“What Nodder still believes today is that by interacting every day, people will realize that they have more in common than they realize. That mission took him from anti-racist schools in South Africa to a United World College in Swaziland – and in 2014 to Freiburg.”
There, students ask themselves many questions and recognize that they can even debate peace. Teachers are also a little confused. In any case, the 18 establishments in the United World Colleges network were nominated by a Norwegian parliamentarian for the Nobel Peace Prize.