‘Thank you for coming in yesterday. The children really enjoyed your session and we’ve raised lots of awareness and money for Care4Calais which is wonderful.’ Rhona Sykens, Year 5 teacher, 23 June 2023
For the past two years, the children and parents at St Christopher’s Prep School have collected donations for Refugee Week and spent the week learning about refugees.
By the time I arrived on Thursday morning to read a story and talk to Year 5, they were extremely well-informed. They had no problem providing accurate definitions of a refugee.
Our activity was to imagine that you have to flee quickly and can only take a small bag with 5 items. What would you select? The children discussed their ideas with a partner.
The answers included practical items: passport, toothbrush, jumper – and a rucksack so you could take more stuff.
Others focused on entertainment: a PlayStation, laptop, football or Rubik’s Cube. Items you don’t have to charge seemed more sensible.
In the story, I’d mentioned the danger of bandits when travelling by foot through some regions, so a couple had some interesting suggestions for defence weapons: a sword or a Taser.
They all had plenty of ideas.
I mentioned my work as a volunteer English teacher with Migrant English Project (MEP).
The children then asked lots of questions, including:
Q: Are you a refugee?
A: I’m not, but my great-grandparents were.
Q: Where’s the further one of the MEP students has come from?
A: Without an atlas, I didn’t know the answer, but we have students from many countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan, El Salvador and Honduras.
Q: What’s the first book you wrote?
A: It was Anne Frank, Voice of Hope, in 2000.
Q: How do you speak to new students who don’t speak English?
A: I use their language if I know it, e.g. Spanish or Arabic, but I have resorted to Google Translate when necessary.
I asked the Y5 children what languages they speak. Their home languages include Farsi, Arabic and Spanish. Their teacher Rhona Sykens pointed out that with their language skills, they would be brilliant at helping refugees when they’re older.
It was a pleasure to talk to such a lively and engaged group of children.
The story I read is here.