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Crispin School Year 8 Community Conference

Posted by Jessica Went Education and Youth Intern, South West

5th Aug 2013

Crispin School: Year 8 Community Conference (16th July 2013): Make your voice heard

This daylong event was another fantastic example of global education at Crispin school, enabling their students to become active global citizens. The days aim was to introduce the students to a global way of thinking and acting, and to encourage them to think about the potential they have to change the world. The students each attended three one-hour long workshops, all of which were aimed at illustrating the importance of global awareness, how to create and run an effective campaign and the ways in which they could use their voice to make a difference.

The activity I delivered, 'Beat the System', is a hands-on way of explaining the injustices of the global food system. The students spent the session in a fictional country, Centralia, in groups of farmers, traders and companies trying to make as much profit as possible. As the session progressed the farmers quickly became indignant and then genuinely furious at their powerlessness when confronted with droughts, land grabs and other disasters. Meanwhile, the traders and companies used their position of finanicil and trading power to  exploit. Indeed, over the course of the day we had cases of stealing, slavery, protests and imprisonment which certainly kept me and the Crispin teachers on our toes! One teacher commented that she had never before seen a particular class so engaged by an activity, a sure testimony to the games' brilliant design.

'Beat the System' really gets the students to taste the inequality, disempowerment and exploitation which characterise so many millions of people's lives. The students learnt about the power of teamwork and support in securing fair rights and resources, linking directly with the cooperatives Oxfam help establish in countries where farmers are poor. Indeed, after a particular protest which the Crispin teachers and myself, as the 'Global Food Market' and 'Government', easily quelled the pupils involved seemed bemused as to why the protest had no effect. Explaining that their protest was too small-scale as the 'Global Food Market' could still buy food elsewhere they went on to try and formulate larger protests. The resourcefulness of the students was certainly impressive but despite this none of the farmers were able to break out of the cycle of poverty. I really hope the activity helped the students appreciate the importance of their own voices and the fact that they are privileged in their ability to use it.

In another Oxfam workshop, students designed their own campaigns aimed at tackling issues which they felt passionate about. This is a fantastic way of introducing young people to the notion that they can make a positive impact in the world by using their voice to express their opinions. Another workshop was run by Development Education Centre, GLADE - through games students explored their role as a global citizen.

Primary schools were also involved in the day's activities and pupils spent time watching and participating in the different workshops. Crispin school has a great link with a school in Masana, Kenya and several teachers and students from this school were visiting and they too participated in the day. At the end of one of the 'Beat the System' sessions one of these teachers approached me to commend Oxfam on the activity and expressed his belief that it was incredibly true to life for many Kenyan farmers.

Although these kinds of workshops might not be immediately associated with a Year 8 Community Conference it became clear that they were all highly relevant. Indeed, these events, where students can use their own voices, are essential in helping create a global community where fairness and equality are paramount. Essential to this is the emphasis that must be placed on the ability of young people to help realise this ideal.

The day concluded with a wonderful celebration of the school's Kenyan links. This felt like a real community event with pupils from several local primary schools joining a number of Crispin students in celebration of the partnership. Several presentations and speeches were made, finishing with the Kenyan teachers and students singing and dancing Kenyan songs to celebrate the partnership. All the schools involved had created amazing displays celebrating their connections with Kenyan link schools, displays explored and illustrated global issues such as inequality, poverty and climate change. A phrase that particularly struck me 'time is the only thing that cannot be recycled' was at the centre of one particularly impressive display. The profundity of this amongst the myriad of other pieces of work documenting worldwide inequalities really emphasised the passion of the young people involved in the day and their motivation to help create a more just world as active global citizens. 

Blog post written by Jessica Went

Education and Youth Intern, South West

More by Jessica Went