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Focused on the future – Creating conditions for peace

By Fauzan, Grade 11, East Campus
10 August 2021

Damian Bacchoo


“There’s no luck involved in me coming to a school focused on peace.”

Damian Bacchoo joined UWCSEA East as High School Principal in February 2021. He was interviewed by students from the service Capturing East who found his answers were insightful, his demeanour warm, and his investment in the wellbeing of the student body incontestable.

Before joining UWCSEA, Damian’s most recent positions had been leading a project to set up a new international school in Switzerland and as Global Head of Programme for the International Baccalaureate (IB). What drew him to UWCSEA were the overlaps between the work he was doing at the IB and the UWC mission statement: “[…] the mission for the International Baccalaureate was almost identical to the UWC mission.”

For Damian, the draw of UWCSEA was that the College’s values not only drive learning, but the equal treatment of all five elements of the learning programme. As a parent whose children will be attending this school come August 2021 he hopes that, “they will find meaning, and I want them to be busy doing stuff that they love.”
One area that Damian is particularly passionate in tackling is the issue of mental health. He believes that our mental health is one of the components that build up that idea of one’s best self, and that actively speaking about mental health is a key step in moving forward.

Another area which Damian feels is important to address is the issue of relevance: is what students are learning about in their classrooms relevant? Will students use this knowledge in their futures? One’s educational journey is rarely ever complete without hearing a classmate grumbling about the impracticality of a topic being taught in class, and as Damian believes, rightly so, “That question of relevance has always been in my head—is that relevant? Do I need to know this? And I always question that [asking] “what are the jobs? Where is the future of work? What skills will employers need?””

Looking forward, he hopes to move towards more diversity in the academic opportunities offered in the High School, allowing students to freely follow their passions and interests.

Damian spent nine years in the British Army, gaining a perceptive understanding of the need for peace-keeping: “I had to see what non-peace looks like to understand why it’s worth fighting for [a peaceful world]. That means we have to create an environment where people understand each other, respect each other, and accept each other’s differences.” Damian went on to emphasise the importance of the UWC mission and being mission-driven as a school, saying that the best way to create the conditions for peace is through education.

When asked about what advice he would give to a younger version of himself, Damian talked about the satisfaction he receives from doing service and wishes it could have been a part of his life earlier on. Giving up his time for something that makes a difference is very rewarding; and while he knows that his actions alone aren’t going to change the world, it is the ability to make a small difference in someone else’s life that he feels is important.

To students, his advice is be to be kind to themselves: “Being kind, sometimes, to yourself might just be as simple as focusing on being happy for yourself.” Damian has observed that students are so often focused on trying to meet expectations set by external sources that they lose sight of their own wellbeing. “Until you can respect yourself, it’s very difficult to find it within yourself to look outwards and be able to lead with compassion. When you are in balance, you are then capable of doing what needs to be done.”
Arina from Grade 11, Karim from Grade 9 and Jayden from Grade 6 interviewed Damian as part of the Capturing East Service Group. Find out more about Damian and other UWCSEA East community members on the student-published website below! 

Capturing East