The schools at the heart of The Independent’s Learn to Live campaign have met for the first time to start a joint piece of artwork with children living in war zones and refugee camps around the world.
Four schools in the UK have already been linked with children affected by war in Jordan, Iraq and the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of Learn to Live Campaign.
Our campaign hopes to increase empathy and understanding between pupils – and we want to reassure children affected by war that they have not been forgotten.
Pupils from the four schools have now begun an art project – the brainchild of the world’s best teacher Andria Zafirakou – which has been designed so students from all backgrounds can take part.
Ms Zafirakou, who won this year’s $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize, asked pupils from the London schools – who are spearheading our campaign – to work together to spell out the phrase “Learn To Live” using only materials found around them.
Students from Carshalton Boys Sports College, Hornsey School for Girls and The Francis Barber Pupil Referral Unit in Wandsworth came together with pupils from Betty Layward Primary School in Stoke Newington to attempt the task. A combination of the efforts will be combined into a final artwork.
The group of nearly 100 students used just their bodies as materials to spell out the word on the school hall floor at Hornsey School for Girls – which Ms Zafarikou called “symbolic”.
Ms Zarafikou, who is an arts and textiles teacher from northwest London, says: “It takes away everything and just says ‘we are one’, ‘we are the human race.’
“I may have a good cry looking at the final pictures, I find it a beautiful concept, I love it.”
Jessica Bailey, headteacher of Betty Layward Primary School, says: “It is nice that the children get to work with children of different ages. It is an exciting project and we are proud to be part of it.
“It is good for children to link with children because they are so empathetic towards each other.”
Aviv Rottenberg, 10, who lived in Israel for six years before coming to the UK, says: “Today was quite fun because we got to meet all kinds of people from the different schools.”
Harriet Webster, 13, from Hornsey School for Girls, says: “It is something people will understand as they will have seen something similar in newspapers or online all over the world.”
Charity War Child, which has joined forces with The Independent for the campaign, teaches the groups of child refugees twinned with schools in the UK through informal education.
Rob Willliams, CEO of War Child, told the children at the event: “I now count all of you as among the people who want to help.”
He added: “The best way to help is to find out more about the people who reside in a conflict zone.”
Speaking to The Independent afterwards, Mr Williams says: “It will get really interesting when they develop this deep connection with children in the camps.
“They have already found ways to have quite deep conversations. Hornsey school has nominated women they find inspiring and the girls in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan are doing the same.”
He adds that Betty Layward have created a project explaining what games they play in England and they are going to find out what games the children play in Iraq.
Imogen McCabe, 10, from Betty Layward, says: “I don’t think any of us really knew about what was happening in Iraq. But now we know quite a lot about it.
“We have now written letters so we are going to find out what they like to do in their free time.”
Speaking at the event, Shane, 14, who attends Francis Barber, a unit for pupils who have been excluded from school, said: “We are getting to know what it’s like for people that have been neglected in different countries around the world, and I think that it’s good to know about what they are going through and what has happened to them, and how they are getting out of it.”
Ms Zafirakou adds: “[Children] are collaborating together with no bias at all to create something that will look beautiful.
“This is the complete opposite of racism and prejudice and what’s going on in the world. It is really protecting and inspiring our children. Even if they are 1,000 miles away it says we are the same, we are human beings. Not much separates us, just the way we think and the language we speak.”
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