Friends united, home and abroad

10th December 2004 at 00:00
As the Scottish Executive targets children in an effort to combat racism and encourage an inclusive society, Dundee schools are already well down that road and making an impact, writes Raymond Ross

When a Dundee football fan was convicted of racial abuse last month, the sheriff praised a 14-year-old boy for his bravery in giving evidence. The boy had been offended by the man's chants against Celtic stars Bobo Balde and Momo Sylla during a game at Dens Park, Dundee's home ground, and had reported him to the police.

Following the man's conviction, the Church of Scotland issued a press release applauding the boy's actions and Morag Mylne, convener of the Kirk's church and nation committee, said it was "a victory for the values being taught in our schools and churches".

Dundee's convener of education, David Alexander, said: "We are very supportive of the excellent work done by schools in Dundee to combat racial and other forms of abuse and we are pleased that this youngster felt it was right to stand up to behaviour he knew to be wrong."

Schools lie at the very heart of the Government's moves to eliminate racism. The Scottish Executive's One Scotland, Many Cultures campaign, which was launched in February, is aimed at encouraging people, particularly young people, to speak out about offensive racist behaviour and language.

Launching the campaign, Margaret Curran, the then Minister for Communities, said: "We are targeting young people because we want to encourage them to speak out against bigoted and discriminatory behaviour.

"Young people are our future and they should be given the confidence and every opportunity to embrace and celebrate Scotland's diversity."

The campaign does not just target teenagers. In order to be successful, it has to start instilling values of equality and fairness from the earliest possible age, infusing them in the curriculum.

Glebelands Primary, an inner-city multicultural school in Dundee, has its share of challenging pupils and, like any other primary, is not entirely free of racially motivated behaviour or incidents. However, over the past two years, it has adapted the 5-14 social subjects curriculum to embed anti-racist strategies and married citizenship education with its multicultural ethos.

Through the charity Peace Child International, the school - with P7 pupils leading the way - actively supports street children in Peru as part of their study of a developing country. A recent all-singing, all-dancing Salsa Day raised pound;840, which will pay for a year's education and resources for 15 street children at a Peace Child International farm in Colibri.

The P7s have also written and recorded their own song, "Merry Christmas from Peru", which will be sold to raise more funds. Copies will go not only to the school in Colibri but also to the British embassy and British Council offices in Lima.

Charity worker and educationist Tom Jolly, who has set up the school in Colibri, also works with the Dundee P7 class. The P7 pupils have sent a box telling of life in Dundee, and they learn from the Peruvian children, who have sent slides, stories and illustrations of what life is like for street children.

"It's as much about them helping our education as it is about us helping them," says Loretta Mulholland, the depute headteacher in charge of social subjects. "These are materials embedded in our curriculum and our pupils understand that the Peruvian children are aiding their education here in the City of Discovery."

Although Project Colibri, as they call it, is a special enterprise, it is integral to the school's citizenship education, which starts in P1.

"Citizenship comes into every social subject at every stage," says Mrs Mulholland. "It's about promoting positive attitudes, from the local to the global, and using up-to-date resources which avoid stereotypes."

Among the resources used in the early years are persona dolls, life-size boy and girl dolls who are introduced to P1 pupils as class members with their own stories and backgrounds. These include a doll in a wooden wheelchair and two Asian and two Oriental dolls.

"They are treated as wee people," says Mrs Mulholland. "We ask how they feel, what kind of a day they're having, if they've been called any names today and so on.

"They fit perfectly into the P1 People in Society curriculum, where we discuss how every one belongs in the school and use stories like The Ugly Duckling to ask the children how they think the ugly duckling would have felt.

"In P2 we also use the Oxfam recommended book Something Else, by Kathryn Cave, about a wee alien who arrives from outer space and tries to fit in, looking at the three Rs: respect, rights and responsibilities.

"In P3 we widen the focus from school community to city community, using a pack of photos of Dundee people, some of whom the children will know. We talk about how we can help people and how people, like emergency services staff, teachers, librarians, shop assistants, after school care and drama workers, help us. At this stage we introduce the word citizen," she says.

P4 People in Society looks at caring in the community and terms such as stereotype and prejudice are introduced. In specially devised games girls are asked to role-play boys, and vice versa, to look at differences. Visits are made to a Church of Scotland kirk, a Roman Catholic church, a mosque and a Sikh temple as part of a look at religion and people's beliefs and the P4 pupils lead school assemblies on places of worship and religious beliefs.

During Ramadan (usually in October), a special lunchtime club is set up to take children away from playground temptations. "This came about after a fasting pupil accidentally ate a crisp during lunchtime and was terribly upset as a result," says Mrs Mulholland.

"What began accidentally, as it were, is now embedded in the school year as part of valuing the children's beliefs, cultures, languages and religions.

"It's followed by an Eid party (usually in November), with invitations issued to all members of staff as well as pupils."

The multicultural ethos also spreads through the P4 history and geography topics People in the Past and People and Place. Robert the Bruce and William Wallace and the Wars of Independence are introduced and the opportunity is taken to discuss anti-English racism, which prepares pupils for One Scotland, Many Cultures lessons in P5.

In P5 pupils begin to look more explicitly at Scotland as a multicultural society, from the days of Picts, Scots, Britons, Romans, Angles and Norsemen to the present, and a study of Mary, Queen of Scots and her era gives rise to discussions on religious tolerance.

Links with Europe are pursued in P6, when the pupils also begin learning German. This year they sang "Stille Nacht" on local radio and are comparing the Tay and the Rhine for a geography project.

Other comparative studies, using the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund's resource Our Past is Their Present, examine aspects of Scottish history, such as child labour in Victorian days, with present day developing countries.

"The themes are continuous from P1 to P7 and are not separated topics. They are part of the pupils' core education," says Mrs Mulholland.

Upper primary pupils also look at ethical trading and for Fair Trade Fortnight, in March, the P7s will link this to their work as a health-promoting school. A dance project which will see them perform dances from Scotland, Ireland and Continental Europe as well as South America, India and China (dragon dances).

"The whole school's approach is to reinforce the idea of citizenship and equality in being Scottish, British, European and world citizens," says Mrs Mulholland.

One Scotland, Many Cultures campaign details, teaching materials and useful links, THE WORD WAS GOOD

At Glebelands Primary, all the school assemblies are led by the pupils. The following is an extract from a recent P7 assembly.

"Being a good global citizen means thinking about how we treat other people, animals and our environment.

"During our project we have explored issues such as conflict, sustaining the environment and what we can do to make a difference to countries other than our own.

"We all have responsibility for the health of our world. Being a global citizen means:

* celebrating difference

* fairness

* equality

* justice

* trying to resolve conflict

* taking responsibility for ourselves and others and

* taking responsibility for our environment."

Hopefully, equalities education like this across Scotland will make more children speak out against racist abuse and, equally hopefully, it will help to eliminate the need to speak out in the future.

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