Chalk Talk: How London pupils got a window on world hunger


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The Independent Online

Hands up those of you who have been hungry for three days, asked Sylvia Mwichuli, director of communications at AGRA, which aims to help smallholder farmers in Africa combat hunger.

Only one hand in the hall in front of her at the Petchey Academy in Hackney, east London, went up.

Behind her on the TV screen – where the school was being linked by Skype to Buyinja school in Kasangati village, 10 miles outside Kampala, the capital city of Uganda – all the hands went up.

The occasion was a unique satellite link between the two schools before the G8 summit and last weekend's rally in Hyde Park to get the world's leading nations to combat malnutrition to focus pupils' minds on the issue.

All the students who stay on into the sixth-form at the Petchey Academy study the traditional three subjects at A-level or Pre-U, plus a course in "global perspective and research".

Citizenship teacher Fiona Dyke, who teaches the course, put the issue in perspective for the pupils at the start of the link-up. "One in eight people in the world go hungry," she said. "Imagine a dinner table with eight people – seven of you wouldn't eat and let one person starve."

Guest speaker journalist Roger Thurow, a former foreign correspondent of The Wall Street Journal who now devotes his life to campaigning against malnutrition, told the students about a five-year-old boy he met in Ethiopia a decade ago – Hagirso – who could barely stand because he was so weak from lack of food.

The pupils certainly felt they'd learnt more about the problem – especially from the link to Buyinja school. "We understood the issue but didn't know the extent of it beforehand," said 16-year-old Husniye Ilhan. The event was organised through Speakers for Schools, a charity that provides speakers for state schools on key issues – free of charge.

The course at the school aims to "equip young people with the critical thinking, analytical and advocacy skills for higher education whilst simultaneously developing their interest and enquiry into a range of global issues".

Good to see it's not all about exams, exams, exams in the real world.