A gift for fighting poverty

6th October 2006 at 01:00
Children are guides to change in a Catholic charities' development studies pack. Tom Deveson is impressed

SHARING OUR WORLD. Resource pack including DVD-ROM, teacher's book and set of nine posters. CAFODSCIAF pound;10. www.cafod.org.uk; www.sciaf.org.uk

"When I want a drink of water," says Katrina, "I can turn on a tap." She knows that within the human family she counts as lucky. Katrina is one of eight children from UK primary schools who act as guides through this excellent resource pack.

At the start of the DVD, we see the children gently throwing an inflatable globe to one another, an effective visual metaphor for the message that underlies all the accompanying assembly outlines and curriculum activities - that "the world's resources are a gift to be shared equally".

CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) and SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) are inspired specifically by the gospels and by Catholic social teaching, but this pack should find a welcome in all schools. As the DVD proceeds, we learn about the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed by the international community in the year 2000 as a way of halving extreme poverty over the following 15 years. Short video clips introduce us to children and families whose lives need to be transformed if the targets are to be achieved.

The films are of high quality. They are sharply focused and aptly backed by commentaries - clear in narrative and analysis - from Katrina and her friends. The stories are often harrowing but are told within a context of hope, as we see how CAFOD works with local organisations to turn phrases such as "ensure environmental sustainability" or "achieve universal primary education" into more than a comfortable slogan. The teacher's book skilfully relates the MDGs to topics that regularly feature in primary classrooms, such as water, health, food and homes, without sacrificing the sharp outlines that they demand if they are to be set accurately within contemporary global politics and economics.

The 50-page book is organised in an exemplary manner, with simple icons showing where video clips, downloadable images or web links can most be used.

The ideas that might arise from children's discussion and research are far from simple. Realising why two-thirds of the world's illiterates are women, or how school can be the means of an escape from poverty, should be an education in itself.

A set of large posters recasts the MDGs as questions. A photograph of a woman bending over parched soil in Zambia is captioned: "How can we make sure that everyone has enough to eat?" These questions echo in the mind with a powerful effect.

The DVD technology may be smooth and modern, but the moral issues are stark and perennial.

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