Shows of friendship have already begun

1st July 2005 at 01:00
In the run-up to the G8 summit, pupils have been involved in topical arts projects, debates and competitions, Raymond Ross reports

A roar of appreciation and applause goes up as the pupils from Zwelibanzi High, in Durban, walk on stage at Drummond Community High, resplendent in a mix of traditional Zulu dress and kilts.

This Making Connections entertainment has brought together 200 pupils from Edinburgh, South Africa and Rwanda, plus the Kakatsitsi drummers from Ghana, to celebrate unity in diversity in the run-up to the G8 summit on July 6-8.

The Durban pupils know how to make their point, telling us with the insistent rhythm of drums: "We, the youth of South Africa, the youth of Africa, expect an eradication of poverty, hunger and unemployment", "One death by HIV or disease is one death too many" and "Free and compulsory education is not a privilege, it is a right."

Their singing, dance and movement is received rapturously by pupils, teachers and parents in the assembly hall, which Drummond High pupils have decorated with African-style art and motifs.

The Rwandans tell us how at home the African art makes them feel before embarking on a moving presentation of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis, a piece they came specially to Edinburgh to perform at the Travese Theatre to coincide with the G8 summit. It climaxes in a dance of renewal and rebirth before leading on to a traditional hunter-warrior dance sequence which is so varied and energetic that the audience is calling "More!" before it is even over.

Throughout the evening Drummond High pupils have been playing a blend of semi-rock, pop, blues, country and rap music, but it is when they are joined by the Kakatsitsi drummers, with whom they have worked for three days, that they begin to show true power and commitment to voice and performance, when we feel that they are really making connections.

This is one of many valuable and hopeful G8 associated events and activities which pupils across Scotland - particularly in Edinburgh and Perth and Kinross, where the G8 summit is being held - have been involved in.

Alec Wallace, the headteacher at James Gillespie's High (Zwelibanzi High's twinned school) tells the audience: "We have much to learn from African young people. They don't lack wisdom or a love of learning."

And Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Lesley Hinds, tells us how important it is to listen to the voice of African young people.

However, another project, reminds everyone how important it is to listen to the voice of Scottish young people too.

For the Book of Thoughts project, Perth and Kinross pupils were asked to make poetic, narrative and artistic contributions on the theme of "Letter to a leader: my world and what it means to me." For the book, which will be published in the autumn, Oliver Howard-Vyse, 7, of Craigclowan Preparatory in Perth, wrote the following.

"My name is Oliver. I would like to say 'Hello' to all the G8 leaders. I am excited that so many important people have come to Scotland. I am proud of Scotland and people in Scotland want you to make the world a better place.

"I know a boy called Sipho. He lives in South Africa, where I was born. I now live in Scotland. We're both seven. I want to tell you how different our lives are.

"I get up at seven in the morning but Sipho gets up with the sun. After I get up I go to the bathroom, turn on a tap and brush my teeth. Sipho has no toothbrush or sink. Sipho has to walk two or three miles to fetch water and bring it home in a tub on his head. He must get a sore neck because it is very heavy. His family will use it for cooking, cleaning and washing.

"I go downstairs and have breakfast. For breakfast I will fill my tummy with cereal and toast. Sipho will just have a biscuit. If I was him I would be very hungry.

"After breakfast Mummy will drive me to school. Sipho has to walk to school. My school is a big building. Sipho will have to sit under a tree.

At break time we play games. Sipho kicks a tin can around with his friends.

At lunchtime we sit in a big dining room and for lunch we always have meat and vegetables or pasta with a pudding. Sipho will probably only have a mealie to eat outside.

"Sometimes we go on a school trip on a bus, which is exciting. Sipho doesn't.

"After school Mummy drives me home but Sipho has to walk back home. When I get home I turn on the television and watch Blue Peter. When he gets home Sipho has to do lots of chores, like getting firewood and sweeping the yard. I don't even like having to tidy my room.

"After supper I have a bath. Sipho doesn't have a bath but washes with the water he went to get in the morning if there is any left. It must be yucky by now. Then I get into my comfy bed with all my teddies in my own room.

Sipho has to sleep in a room with his whole family and he has to sleep on the floor. That's not comfy. Daddy locks the door at night so no burglars can get in. Sipho's house has no doors to lock.

"If I'm sick Mummy takes me to the doctor. If I'm really sick or hurt myself badly I can go to hospital and have an X-ray or something. Sipho has no hospital close by so he has to walk or be carried a very long way and the hospital probably doesn't have an X-ray machine. Many people die every day because there is no medicine or hospitals.

"I don't understand why Sipho doesn't have the good things that I have. I want to ask the Prime Minister and all the other important people at the G8 to think about how they can give him and his friends and family an easier life. They need fresh water and things like ploughs to help plant seeds to grow more food. They need school buildings so they don't get wet because it can rain very hard in Africa.

"Please think about what people need and help them, because when I grow up I'm going to."

Sarah Miles, 12, of Perth Grammar, has contributed a poem to the book. Our World includes the verses: Why should other countries starve, When we have enough food for them?

We take their riches, and their lives, And they get nothing back.

Think about this carefully, What does it mean to you?

The happiness of our country's important to you, Shouldn't they be happy too?

In Edinburgh and Perth and Kinross, pupils have also been involved in visual arts workshops, speech-making competitions and debates on the two main G8 summit issues of Africa and climate change.

In addition, seven secondary schools are being matched with a school in another G8 country.

Exhibition banners designed by eco-schools have been touring Perthshire and banners with an ecological theme, designed by local pupils, have been hung along Auchterarder high street.

The Royal School of Dunkeld Primary has been extending its involvement in the eco-schools programme through a cross-disciplinary artsscience project. River of Words is a celebration of water, embracing poetry, drama, music, art and crafts such as wood carving and willow-working.

The Tree of Life project has been involving Edinburgh pupils in making a sculpture from toy guns, in imitation of the British Museum's Tree of Life sculpture, made last year from weapons decommissioned since the end of Mozambique's civil war. It is a sister sculpture to the Throne of Weapons, made in 2001 from similar decommissioned AK47s and rifles, which is on a UK tour from the museum and will be at Perth Museum from July 9 to August 29.

A few weeks ago in Crieff, pupils had the chance to quiz environment minister Ross Finnie, Green MSP Mark Ruskell and Professor James Curran, of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, on climate change matters.

Eight Perth and Kinross secondary schools competed in a speech-making competition on "Our Earth, Our Responsibility". The judges, who included MSP John Swinney and G8 poet Robin Bell, awarded first prize to Perth Academy and joint second to the Community School of Auchterarder and Pitlochry High.

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