With recent global tragedies in Beirut, Paris and Bamako highlighting the darker side of the world, it is important for teachers to show their students the light.
Over the past few years I have been excited to ‘cheer from the sidelines’ as my good friend Francis Ventura worked to establish The Peshawar School for Peace (PSP), in Pakistan. With funding and support from Australia, Francis collaborated with a group from the Peshawar Youth Organisation to develop and create the school.
The raw passion, energy and resilience required to make this dream a reality was remarkable. In a region where education for girls is minimal, I have been amazed by what has already been achieved by the team in Pakistan.
Now in its first year of operations, PSP has over twenty young students aged three and four in their beautiful school. Their Principal, Madame Sohail, works with teachers to provide an education that will nurture future ‘peacemakers’. Their aim is to improve gender equality, peace and social cohesion.
Building empathy and intercultural understanding are two important goals for any educator. While there are many opportunities to build that within the school walls, there are also new possibilities for teachers to enable their students to connect with the world.
As SRC Coordinator of Melrose High in Canberra, I have been working with the PSP to provide an opportunity for our SRC students to lead a school wide connection from Canberra to Peshawar. This week we were able to make this a reality. With a group of students and teachers, we held a Friday afternoon ‘Skype Class’ introducing students in Peshawar and Canberra to each other.
It was touching to see my students connecting, sharing their experience of high school in Australia, and listening to the Pakistani children sining songs they have been taught. We were able to introduce teachers and Principals to each other, and meet some parents of the PSP students.
Students were also educated about the challenges faced in another part of the world. They are beginning to understand the difficulties for women in particular, where education is often not available.
This experience moved many of my students, one of whom promptly emailed me after school and asked what more we could do to support PSP and other schools like it. The genuine empathy on display from our students reminded me why I got into teaching.
The students and staff of both Melrose and Peshawar are excited to collaborate more in 2016. From additional Skype Classrooms and meetings to fundraising possibilities or sending postcards, the children will feel a deep and empathetic connection to somewhere over 11,000km away.
I look forward to 2016 and the new opportunities it will bring to put more smiles on the faces of students and raise future peacemakers.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore
Melrose High School Principal and student during our Skype Classroom