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The courage to lead during these ‘special times’-I

01 Jul 2022

A resurgence of pandemic cases in Shanghai necessitated a transition to distance learning in mid-March. This has presented unique challenges to us all. But we have seen Huili pupils exhibit courage and resilience in these special times. They have learned to adapt, overcome and take initiative to get the job done. From chess to charity, here are four examples of how Huili pupils are leaders.  






Chess and debate 


Grade 9 pupils Oscar and Jared had been hard at work planning the Chess Masters’ Club at Huili’s (CMCH) first-ever inter-house competition. But when the school transitioned to distance learning, they realised that they would have to adapt. So, they promptly moved the competition online, using the Chess Federation app.  

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Despite our pupils being unable to enjoy the thrill of competition in person, the online event was a massive success, sparking lots of engagement and interest in chess across all houses. More importantly, the competition kept our community connected

Chess proved to a be fun and stimulating way to pass the time and it was just as much a social activity as it was competitive. Oscar and Jared now have a clear template for all subsequent chess competitions, both on and offline. And they are determined to make the game a Huili tradition.  

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▲Oscar supervised the online chess competition

By early May, grade 9 pupil Tony was taking inspiration from Oscar and Jared’s success. He took the initiative to organise an online debate competition. The idea was to create a platform where pupils and teachers could communicate and exchange their ideas. This would not only spark lively and stimulating conversation but also keep our community connected during a time when it has been all too easy to retreat into isolation and loneliness.  "We managed to overcome the limits of physical distance, through communication and language,” says Tony. “That is a very powerful thing.” 

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It was a valuable experience for all involved. Tony cultivated his leadership and organisational skills while his fellow pupils improved their debating skills through practice. "I hope that our debaters have learned from their experience this year, and I hope to see more debaters on stage next year when we can hold events like this in person once again,” says Tony.  






‘From the Mountain’ and to the Farm 


The Huili Educational Farm is a youth grant-making programme funded by the Huili Charity Fund. Pupils independently manage and maintain a small-scale organic farm on campus.  


▲Fieldwork of Huili Educational Farm Partners 

This is a pupil-led extension of the organic farm programme that we launched two years ago. The team had planned to take the programme to the next level, by involving more members of the community and implementing an enterprise operating model. However, the outbreak hampered these efforts, because our pupils could not return to campus to manage the farm.  


Virtual Open Day poster

But it was not a total loss. The team used this to draw up renovation plans for a spiral garden, an insect hotel and a rainwater collector. Then they introduced the programme to the wider community with a virtual ‘Open Day’. It was a massive success; they signed up 30 new members. 


Educational Farm product - rainwater collector

The activity was an invaluable opportunity for grade 9 pupils Nini and Sissi to gain practical leadership experience as the farm’s co-CEOs. “Taking on this position, we need to keep track of a lot of things. We need to be willing to take risks and learn from mistakes,” says Nini.    

"With this programme, we have explored many new ways to manage our team, from the group level down to the individual level,” Sissi adds. “Leadership has also taught us the importance of empathy and how it can get the best out of everyone on your team.”  


‘From the Mountain: Staging the Performance’ is another youth grant-making programme that was greatly affected by the pandemic. Grade 9 pupil Vivian, who oversees the programme, put a lot of thought into how it might continue under such challenging conditions. 


‘From the Mountain’ programme team

In a daily meeting, she proposed producing a video that would pay tribute to the many heroes helping in the pandemic prevention efforts. For five weeks, Vivian and her team compiled and edited footage for a video. "It was hard work, but we did it together as a team. The video got a great response in the community, and we now have an exclusive video channel to get the word out about what we are doing," says Vivian.  


A map in the video created by the ‘From the Mountain’ team 

In the meantime, Vivian and her team have been working with our teachers to plan a visit to meet the children they are helping with this programme and learn more about their unique culture first-hand.  


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Whether connecting our school community through debate and chess or serving the wider community through charitable efforts, Huili pupils have shown themselves to be effective leaders even in challenging times 


As a result, they are learning and living the Huili Values of Courage, Respect, Integrity, Kindness and Responsibility. And this will serve them well throughout their lives.