Victims of war tell their stories;Reviews;General;Secondary;Books

20th March 1998 at 00:00
MAKING PEACE. pound;11 plus pound;2.20 postage. Oxfam UK and Ireland, co BEBC, PO Box 1496, Parkstone, Dorset BH12 3YD.

POVERTY IN THE UK. Teacher's Handbook 'Close To Home'. pound;6.50 plus 85p postage. Simulation game 'The Exclusion Zone' pound;2 plus 65p postage . Church Action on Poverty. Educational Trust, Central Buildings, Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JT.

Making Peace is an excellent resource which will be very useful for humanities teachers.

Key stage 3 pupils will find difficulty with the amount of reading required, but, for key stage 4, the work is accessible and relevant. In particular, the pack starts "where the children are at", studying conflict in the students' own experiences (the activities in the first section are based on life at school).

Section two of the pack guides pupils through a number of powerful personal testimonies. Thus we meet Zinaida - a 15-year-old Bosnian schoolgirl with a Muslim father and a Serb mother - Tsippi, aged 13, who lives in a West Bank Jewish settlement, and Maysoon, 12, who lives in a Palestinian refugee camp, the exiled Maweya family, wondering whether they dare go back to Mozambique, and Eduardo, a former FMLN guerrilla from El Salvador.

Section three introduces the historical issues, encouraging pupils to look for bias, similarities and differences in the sources.

In section four, the book introduces its main themes - "Finding a new community", "A sense of security", "On the move" and "Rebuilding the future". This section is excellent, and the proposed role plays are well-devised.

The activities are imaginative and reasonably clearly-explained. When I showed it to a head of humanities, he declared it the best resource for the Conflict and Co-operation module of the history curriculum he had seen, although he felt it avoided some of the moral issues of conflict, such as the "just war" and conscientious objectors.

The pack, coinciding with Oxfam's Cut Conflict campaign, prefers to concentrate on its theme of Making Peace (and the difficulties involved in doing so). it suggests links with history, geography, RE and English, and particularly with PSE, but a cross-curricular application is perhaps unrealistic for most secondary schools.

By comparison, Poverty in the UK is less remarkable. The Exclusion Zone is a trading game to illustrate Matthew 25.29: "to everyone who has shall more be given, but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away" - pupils exchange "basic needs" and "luxuries" cards to try to achieve social status, but the rules are weighted so that the poor get poorer and the richer get richer.

Close to Home, the accompanying teacher's handbook, has key icons which make it easy to follow, and addresses questions such as "What is poverty?", "How does it affect people?" and "What part can faith play?" The suggested activities will work in the classroom, but they are unimaginative, and mostly involve putting pupils into discussion groups - for example, to talk about a quote (45 minutes is given to this activity), to brainstorm definitions of poverty and wealth, or to invent a caption for a photograph. The photographs are too small to photocopy clearly.

The handbook suggests work lasting 16 hours, which is far beyond any time available. It gives some factual information, and teachers will use it for reference, or adapt ideas for activities.

John D Clare is head of history at Greenfield Comprehensive School, Co Durham

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