Values of Today's Parents

Aligning with the Values of Today’s Parents

As millennial parents become increasingly eco-conscious, Kapes chats to Sebastian Bates, founder of the Warrior Academy, about teaching the next generation how to make a positive global impact

For Sebastian Bates, martial arts is the vehicle through which he and his team help children to develop their character. “In our academy, we teach children that they can and should make a global impact,” explains Sebastian, the founder of the Warrior Academy which trains thousands of children in Dubai, the UK and worldwide. “We teach the three C’s – confidence, conduct, and concentration so that they can go out and live a successful life as an adult. We’re community focused but we’re very disruptive – we question the norm and the status quo and we encourage our students to do the same thing.”

By focusing on developing this attitude, Sebastian’s goal is to instill a strong sense of social responsibility in every single one of his students. “However old they are, it’s their responsibility to tie their own belt. If they’re not wearing it, they get press ups when they rock up,” says Sebastian who believes that nurturing this independence transforms the way children approach decision-making and form their own purposeful aspirations for the future. “Our legacy is what they go on to do themselves and that’s where this mindset shift fits in with sustainability. We’re empowering these young leaders to make a change in communities around the world – it’s about conscious capitalism.”

Sebastian moved to Dubai 18 months ago from the British countryside where he could grow his own fruit and vegatables and sourcing other fresh produce from the vicinity of his village, but he has found it much harder to pursue his environmental philosophy in the UAE. “It’s harder to be self-sufficient and we have to make a big effort to proactively take our plastic and cans to the recycling station, but parts of Dubai are super eco-friendly.” A case in point is Dubai’s first operational net zero energy ‘sustainable city’ where every house has solar panels, an urban farm forms a spine to the structure of this community and all transport within the borders is run on renewable electricity.

“Our two-year-old daughter is already very eco-conscious and turns off plugs around the home in a bid to save as much energy as possible,” says Sebastian. He and his wife Vicky have thought long and hard about which school to choose and next year, their daughter will start going to The Arbor School, an ecological school in Dubai which prioritises a child’s connection with nature and develops their eco-literacy. “I want my children to understand where their food comes from, use raw materials and spend lots of time outside so I love their approach because it fits my own values. I’m sure this school will be incredibly popular; it’s pretty unique, especially within a city.”

Both the Warrior Academy and the Arbor School pride themselves on a child-led philosophy so rather than just being instructed by adults, children can be encouraged and guided to explore problems and discover solutions for themselves. In doing so, this generation will acquire a great sense of citizenship and environmental awareness.

When it comes to martial arts uniforms, Sebastian is keen to switch to the eco-friendly options designed and produced by Kapes as soon as possible. He wants to offer parents and their children alternative choices and in recent years, he has noticed that millennial parents like him have become more aware of environmental issues: “We used to send everyone a hard copy brochure which they really enjoyed receiving but more recently we’ve had parents saying it’s wasteful – that perspective is changing so we do a huge amount digitally now,” explains Sebastian who moved his teaching online for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown after filming 700 martial arts lessons in the space of just two weeks during early March.

“Since launching online lessons for the whole martial arts syllabus from white belt to black belt, we’ve enrolled students in countries such as US, Holland and Australia. It’s a big shift for us but we’re becoming more efficient, plus less travel means we’re cutting carbon emissions. As a business, there’s definitely an emphasis on wanting to become more eco-friendly,” comments Sebastian who believes that the pandemic is a chance for reinvention. “Lockdown has been a reset for everyone – a time to scale back unnecessary expenses and think creatively about how to thrive. This is an opportunity to approach things differently and find more sustainable solutions.”

Sebastian shares in this mission to ensure his business genuinely impacts people’s lives in positive ways. He has linked every Warrior Academy transaction with a charitable donation by collaborating with B1G1, the movement to buy one give one, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for good health and quality education. If someone signs up in the UK to the Warrior Academy, 365 days of life-saving clean water is donated to a family in Ethiopia and the student gets a certificate showing them what they’ve done, and to celebrate a student becoming a black belt, a well is built in Africa on their behalf. Similarly at Kapes, for every child we sell a uniform to, we will provide a free uniform to a child in need in Africa.

a sense of pride and community among students. They make getting ready for school simple – there aren’t any decisions about which outfit to wear and because there’s no eye-catching fashion to pose a distraction or provoke jealousy, school uniforms can potentially increase focus on studies.

At Kapes, we know that the benefits are far-reaching, here and around the globe. Attendance is of course fundamental for learning but the UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that almost one third (31%) of primary and secondary age children don’t attend school in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to just 3% in UAE.

In Africa where school uniforms are the norm, providing them for free can actually help children to stay in school and pursue their educational qualifications so for every student that we sell a uniform to in the UAE, we have committed to provide a free uniform to a child in need in Africa every year. This is just part of our promise to put people and planet first. And we will also manufacture these school uniforms locally to help create jobs and opportunities within these communities.

In 2021 Kapes partnered with Kirigu Primary School in rural Nairobi to distribute uniforms to vulnerable children at the school.

Many countries in Africa have now eliminated general school fees, but the cost of uniforms remains a significant barrier. Historically, some headteachers would send children away if they arrived at school without the appropriate uniform so when some families are unable to afford school fees or uniforms, social inequalities are exacerbated. So when the ICS-Africa sponsored certain primary schoolchildren in poor, rural communities in Western Kenya to receive free school uniforms, researchers were able to collect data to assess the impact of uniform distribution.

ICS-Africa used a lottery to determine which children from 12 primary schools would receive school uniforms as part of their Child Sponsorship Program. More than 900 children were sponsored by donors in other countries to pay for their school fees and uniforms and field officers visited the schools to measure the sponsored children before providing a new uniform each year. The field officers also made unannounced visits to the schools multiple times a year to record whether each child enrolled in the program was present in class.

Absenteeism in these schools was about 20% – on average, a child would miss one day of education every week – but that fell significantly in the initial years of the program. The research published in 2009 by economists at The World Bank, Harvard University and Yale University concludes that uniform provision reduced school absenteeism in these Kenyan communities by 44% for the average student, and 62% for students who did not previously own a uniform. The experts also concluded that the effect of receiving a uniform had a slightly larger positive impact on girls than boys and on younger (age 5-9) children than older (age 10-14) students.

Although a uniform is by no means the magic pill, it is our way to help keep kids in school, says Kapes founder Matthew Benjamin. “Education and sustainability go hand in hand, we simply cannot achieve sustainability until education is widely accessible to all”, says Benjamin. He explains, “considering that it is the people least responsible for climate change that will suffer the most, I believe that we all have a responsibility to do what is within our power to help those that are marginalised to lift themselves out of poverty”.

By partnering with Kapes you not only are providing your students with uniforms that are better for them and the planet, but you are teaching them to be global citizens by providing uniforms and access to education to those who need it most. To find out more about how you can play your part contact us here.