Making history out of poverty

8th July 2005 at 01:00
was one in a quarter of a million when I marched in Edinburgh last week. It seemed a small thing to do to make people realise it's an unfair world - and that we could make the odds a bit more even if we tried.

Standing up to be counted can be hard. If it's only me, a lone voice, it is pretty puny. Put even one beside me, and it doubles my strength. Put me beside 200,000 others, and you will hear me.

I think I understand some of the issues. I learned about fair trade while supporting a severely dyslexic child in a geography class a couple of years ago. This year, I have had the pleasure of supporting an autistic pupil in a history class. The Holocaust was one topic, and slowly the pupils, still in S1, began to understand exactly what Hitler had done. They could see how horrendous, cruel and barbaric the treatment of Jews was.

Now they are learning about the slave trade, and making the connection between Britain's part in it, and our collective guilt. They are beginning to recognise the source of the tensions between black and white in America, and can then correlate their understanding of racism and red cards. Their knowledge is beginning to dovetail in, and it all begins to make sense for them.

There is a bit of a surge of rubber bands round wrists. Quantity seems more important than messages. I'm sure that few of the children understand much about the G8, or care. They think it's a shame when they see the Geldof footage of starving children, but can't really see what they can do.

Listening to the radio just before the march, and the Live8 concert in London, I heard Africans complaining that it wouldn't raise money to put food in their stomachs. But it might. If we can make politicians listen to the voice of the people, if we can educate our children to understand that there are answers, then it is worth it.

We have hindsight when we teach about the Holocaust and the slave trade.

But Africa, and the hunger, and Aids, and the sheer horror of daily life there for so many, is now. We should have the foresight to explain about it now, so those white bands on grubby wrists mean something.

The pupils will watch Live8 on telly, and might even read some of it in the paper. But wouldn't it have been fine to have explained it all, so that even if they weren't marching through Edinburgh, they understood that eight men could be making life- saving decisions in Scotland?

As a teenager, I don't think I really knew much about the world. I had righteous indignation - but little idea how to channel it.

I marched in Edinburgh - it would have been easier to stay home and celebrate the start of the holidays - but I'm glad I was there. I like to hear my puny wee voice echo out like that.

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