“IST is truly a uniquely diverse school and this is a true celebration of this diversity,” said Nafisha Ladak, a member of the Secondary Parent Network at the International School of Tanganyika (IST).
What Ladak is referring to is International Day, a much-anticipated, annual celebration at IST.
The celebration began many years ago and was connected with the United Nations Day by the UN.
“It started out as a few teachers and parents who had a few tables in the Elementary Campus field near the pool,” Ladak said. “They shared pictures, books and treats from different countries.”
The following year, IST had more countries represented, with even more tables set up.
“Slowly over the years the whole school has become involved with each year being stronger, bigger and more exciting than the previous,” Ladak said.
IST now has a parade, with students getting passports stamped as they “arrive” at each country; they also get little bags where they can collect souvenirs as they visit each country's booth.
The parade is followed by an assembly, which is always something people look forward to.
“The assembly is very interesting as there are always a few dance/show items from some countries and a presentation from Tanzania, the host country,” Ladak said.
The celebration has since grown to a table per country with art, displays, books and food to illustrate the uniqueness each country brings forth.
“Sometimes one family represents one country and sometimes it’s 15 to 20 families from a particular country,” Ladak said.
“The Canadians have a hockey net for shots on goal, the northern Europeans have an ice block bath (how it stays frozen I’m not sure), Tanzania gives away madafu (coconut milk) and watermelon juice along with a spice display.”
It’s a day where the diversity at IST is celebrated, with each student, parent and faculty member learning something new.
“There is so much to learn and the kids are always talking about the different activities all week leading up to the big day,” Ladak said. “Students are always excited about the day, there are so many interesting experiences at each booth.”
And to be expected, such a well-orchestrated day takes a lot of effort to put together.
“I recall a parent who once said, ‘As a teacher, I couldn’t understand the talk about it being so much work, so much investment in time, but this year as a parent, I salute the entire parent body of the school as it’s a mammoth task to put this day together’,” Ladak said.
She acknowledges the massive amount of work put in by the parent networks.
Setting up International Day at IST’s Secondary Campus
When this day first started, it was just at the Elementary Campus, but with the help of Yamin Henn, Secondary School Vice Principal at IST, and Grade 11 student - at the time - Jash K., celebrations began at the Secondary Campus.
“Jash approached me and mentioned how he had been at IST since the Elementary grades and that International Day was one of his favourite memories,” Yenn said. “He had a dream that we could bring this celebration of diversity back to the Secondary School and wondered if I could help realize this.”
According to Jash, International Day does more than just expose individuals to diversity and different cultural backgrounds, it helps grow their confidence.
“It’s a day of fun and school spirit,” Jash said. “This event also makes me appreciate the exposure to diversity from such a young age at IST. This diversity has also allowed me to grow personally in regards to being more empathetic to others.”
Jash, back when he was in Grade 1 was shy and scared to wear his traditional Indian clothing as he didn’t want to be judged.
“With encouragement from my parents and teachers, I wore traditional clothing and to my surprise, no one judged me but rather my peers were intrigued by all the colours and designs on my clothing,” Jash said.
“This has made it so that I felt proud of my heritage and now in IB as we do not have to wear a uniform I actually wear traditional Indian clothing on days such as the Indian Independence day.”
Henn, having worked at international schools for over 17 years, was also always moved by International Day.
“The visual representation of the diversity and the dilemma I and many students faced, trying to decide which country we would represent, reminded me of the global citizenship we shared,” Henn said.
“This day, when the community comes together, united under one theme, yet grouped separately by country, stimulates discussions around celebrating our diversity, understanding culture, sharing our pride in identity and realization that we have the good fortune to pause and think every time we are asked the question, ‘Where are you from?’"
Henn and Jash’s dream was made a reality after a strategic collaboration with the Parent Networks on both campuses.
“Through this collaboration, we were able to help organize a school-wide International Day and the Secondary and Elementary Schools could come together and showcase our diversity,” Henn said.
And according to Jash, the moment the Secondary Campus had its first International Day was a truly irreplaceable experience.
“It was a proud moment to see everything come together from the parade to the stalls,” Jash said. “The success of the event was evident on the faces of the student body.”
International Day is a time where the diversity on our campuses is celebrated. And to truly understand the significance of this day, we recommend seeing it for yourself. Click here to watch our International Day video.
Within the student body, of the 424 Elementary students and the 465 Secondary students, there are 66 different nationalities represented. This gives all students the chance to witness different cultures, traditions and languages, an invaluable opportunity.
Click the link below to see the diversity on our campus for yourself.