Moving targets;Secondary;Reviews;Citizenship;Books

15th January 1999 at 00:00
HELPING REFUGEE CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS Free booklet

WHY DO THEY HAVE TO FIGHT? Compiled by Jill Rutter and Mano Candappa pound;4.50

REFUGEES: A Resource Book for Primary Schools. By Jill Rutter pound;4.50. The Refugee Council, 3 Bondway, London SW18 1SJ. Tel: 0171 820 3042

FOLK TALES. Sengilo, Mengilo (Kurdish) pound;2.40

THE BOY WITH THE EMPTY POT. (Bosnian) pound;2.70

THE WOODCUTTER (Tamil) pound;2.70

THE DECEIVER (Somali) pound;3

THE LEOPARDESS AND HER CUBS. (Congolese) pound;3

ARABIC FOLK STORIES. (Algerian and Iraqi) pound;3. The Refugee Council (address as above)

The flames and bullets flicker across our television screens, our consciences are briefly stirred, and six months later the children start arriving. They may be voluble or mute, literate or unschooled, but, says the Refugee Council, all share a "well-founded fear of being persecuted".

This excellent range of materials for teachers, well-organised and with a controlled passion for justice, encourages us to learn from our new neighbours as well as about them. The free leaflet packs its 32 pages with useful definitions, statistics and suggestions. Its recommen-dations for countering xenophobia through the curriculum are timely and well-considered.

Children's own testimonies find a proper place in Why Do They have To Fight? Young people from Bosnian, Kurdish, Tamil and Somali backgrounds tell their stories, interspersed with photographs and explanations of the historical and political contexts in which their lives have been transformed.

The book is suitable for older readers in key stage 2. They will need to think about the experience of having a family language banned in public; of being safe in England and yet needing to say: "I was thinking about my mum and I was crying in my head." Reading and discussing should not make for solemnity, but it should make for seriousness.

The resource book does not shy away from controversy. Among its wealth of ideas for making the classroom a place where refugee children can gain respect and confidence, it challenges indigenous children to think, discuss, analyse, speculate and dwell on hopes and dreams.

Themes of danger and safety can surely be explored by most children. "I begged her to stand but she wouldn't," is a chilling sentence to read about a friend.

The folk tales - in English and in mother-tongue - tell of patience and prudence, simple honesty and beneficent trickery. As well as providing a good story, they offer many ways of forging connections.

The Refugee Council has done well in producing these resources, which tell us much we would rather not know, but also nudge us towards a more generous understanding.

Tom Deveson is an advisory teacher for the London borough of Southwark

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