Honing young people’s keen sense of justice

10th June 2016 at 00:00

“Please can you give us the number of the man at the World Bank?”

The P6 children had been learning about land grabs and indigenous communities being forced off their land. They wrote to us at Oxfam Scotland, asking for the number of Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. They wanted a word with him – why hadn’t he helped these people when he promised that he would?

Brilliant! If only it were as simple as that. Children have such a great sense of justice – and injustice.

In global citizenship, we’re dealing with so many issues and so many types of inequality – both in our own country and elsewhere in the world – that it might all seem overwhelming.

The strange thing is, though, that teachers aren’t crossing the road to avoid us when they see us coming. Instead, they tell us how engaged and empowered the children are. As the saying goes, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” (Mosquitoes still have a lot to learn: in terms of collective action, you can’t beat our Scottish midges.)

A highlight for me this past school year was attending the European and External Relations Committee at the Scottish Parliament, and watching three P5 and P6 children running a photo activity, challenging perceptions of people living in Africa.

They behaved impeccably. When they had all signalled that their task was completed and raised their hands, then, and only then, were the MSPs permitted to go to First Minister’s Questions.

My worn-out, exhausted teacher friends are counting the number of sleeps now until the summer holidays. Before you finish, or when you’re back at work as the tail end of the Olympics takes place in Rio, followed by the Paralympics, you might want to try out the ideas below.

Teachers in Highland played an Olympic Top Trumps card game at a workshop recently. This is nothing to do with golf courses or US presidential candidates, but rather a fun way to think about what factors might affect a country’s chance of winning a medal or taking part in an Olympic sport. And we’ve published an Olympics-themed resource that asks whether everyone has a sporting chance (bit.ly/SportingChance).

In Glasgow, during the 2014 Commonwealth Games, there were two cyclists from Malawi whose bikes were in too poor a state to be used.

Charlie Flynn, the Scottish boxer and gold medal winner, summed up the issue well: “Thank God for all he’s gave me. Life, when you’re in these games – other countries they’ve no got much, y’know what ah mean. You’re thankful for your health, your wellbeing and the place you are right now.”

In global citizenship, we see the difference good teachers make, so be sure to have a good rest, a great holiday – and steer clear of those midges.

Anne Kane is curriculum adviser for Oxfam Scotland

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