Racism, Rwanda and real citizenship!
It’s all very well putting together a Citizenship Curriculum but to make it relevant and meaningful - well that’s a whole new ball game!
Over the last two years we have worked hard on setting up the OCR GCSE short course and we have even stuck our necks out and introduced an AS Citzenship course. Both are going very well and we have put the emphasis on discussion and participation (the GCSE Animal Rights unit is full of debating and is one of our coursework units). At the forefront of all of our planning has been the concept that "people and not things matter". In an age of designer clothes, consumer goods and instant gratification and where role models are high earning footballers and popstars this is often a difficult idea for students to grasp.
As you can imagine we were delighted when the Mashirika Rwandan Theatre group presented their experiences of the Rwandan genocide to our students. The group have flown over from Rwanda for six weeks to present their story of desperation and hope. Our own students come from a largely white catchment area and we have a very low multi-cultural intake. With this in mind, we were struck that this was a unique chance to broaden our students` cultural, moral and spiritual experience. We already explore the Rwandan genocide in our Human Rights Unit of work. We study the Declaration of Human Rights and then introduce the 1994 genocide to students by watching the hard-hitting film "Hotel Rwanda".
Citizenship is making a difference. Over the last couple of years we have had so many enlightening experiences. Our year 11 students took the Darfur famine and refugee crisis to heart and asked for the last day of the Christmas term to be dedicated to the refugee crisis. Their charity day, assemblies and end of term concert was real Citizenship in action!
I feel that this Rwandan experience has had an even bigger impact on the School. I’ve asked Lucy Johnson, one of our VI Formers to explain her views about the experience.
"I certainly didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that this group had played to Tony Blair and the World leaders at the G8 summit so I knew that they would be good – but I had no idea what an emotional experience the young actors would have on us. The production started with a devastating video about the genocide of 1994 and then 12 young actors performed their story for us through drums, singing, dancing and acting. The youngest actor was only 12 and he had been hidden as a baby whilst his family were traumatised by the killing and then sent to Scotland to escape the killing. I remember his story but I also remember his brilliant smile and his incredible confidence and pride in the music of his culture.
The story developed from despair to the hope that the youngsters now have for their country. The messages were clear: Where was the United Nations in this 100 days of massacre? Why were adults turning on their neighbours? Do people matter?. More importantly for us was the messages that we were left with. It brought home to us that racism cannot be tolerated and that we should be ashamed by the small issues that obsess us on a daily basis – or rather that we are lucky that we have nothing more important to concern us! At the question and answer session at the end I was moved by the fact that some of these actors had since completed University courses and that they had the passion to address over 500 students about standing up to be counted. In giving the vote of thanks at the end I felt totally inadequate, they had told an amazing story, and were overjoyed by the Biddulph T-shirts and ties that we presented them with. They immediately put them on in front of all of our Year 11. Some of the questions that we asked of them really had no answers. One year 11 boy, Leigh Wallace asked 'Why do we hear about Iraq and Afghanistan but rarely about Africa?' and 'How is Genocide still being allowed to take place?'. It didn’t matter that these questions couldn’t be answered. It matters more that we are asking them in the first place." Lucy Johnson, Year 13