Learn to Live: London pupils share rap message with children living in Central African Republic

Students at pupil referral unit in Wandsworth swap messages with Bangui

Lizzie Edmonds
Wednesday 14 November 2018 12:00 GMT
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Twelve-year-old Dylan, who attends the Frances Barber Pupil Referral Unit in Wandsworth, south London, shows off his lyrics
Twelve-year-old Dylan, who attends the Frances Barber Pupil Referral Unit in Wandsworth, south London, shows off his lyrics (Alex Lentati)

Pupils from London have created a rap inspired by the stories of children living in the Central African Republic as part of our Learn to Live campaign.

Pupils at the Frances Barber Pupil Referral Unit in Wandsworth, which helps boys and girls who have been excluded from mainstream school, have been twinned with students in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), for the past few months as part of The Independent and the Evening Standard’s ongoing project with the charity War Child.

The Learn to Live campaign was designed to promote understanding between children from different backgrounds and has seen hundreds of pupils in London work with those living in the most difficult regions on the planet.

Last week, pupils at Frances Barber received two video links of the CAR children’s favourite rap artist MC Fonctionnaire. One of the songs is called “Apres 50 Ans”, or “After 50 Years”, and is about the continued efforts for peace in the CAR. The other is called “Scolarisation Des Filles”, or “Schooling Girls”, and is about the importance of educating women for the good of the country.

The group also sent over footage of them rapping and singing over a simple guitar backing track, with their song including the lines: “Central African Republic, my dear country that belongs to me/ A rich wonderful land ... but why every day I see tears flowing?”

The pupils at Frances Barber were engrossed when they were played the MC Fonctionnaire tracks, watching intently as the powerful song was played loudly in the small classroom one rainy Friday morning.

Nikai, 14, who wants to be a personal trainer, was impressed and moved by the track and said although it was “different to what he normally listened to” he very much enjoyed it.

When watching the videos, one child, Dylan, 12, was inspired to write a rap in response to what he had learned about the CAR and the group of students.

His lyrics included: “Everyday I’m on the field carrying my gun and shield but predators want to kill. Then one predator approached me and then I had to kill and then I caged down and then my mind was spinning around. But I want to make pounds turn my family’s life around. But day by day earth goes round and round. But I need to save my family now. Or they die to war, but then when we escape the war we will be really poor.”

He was filmed performing the rap, with the video sent back to the twinned group.

How a War Child centre in the Central African Republic is helping children affected by conflict

One CAR pupil, Andrew, 20, was impressed by the rap and added: “I love the music of Fonctionnaire. I loved sharing music with you. I love Dylan’s song – it’s very good but quite short. It makes me happy to have friends so far away like you.”

Another, Adele, added: “I liked seeing the children in London listening to MC Fontionnaire. I’ve learnt lots about England because of the twinning. I liked the song that was written by Dylan.”

The pupils at Frances Barber have also exchanged a number of letters with the CAR group in recent months, with both groups sharing their everyday lives, their ambitions and their hopes for the future with one another. In the past few weeks, the London children have also created a collage artwork of the shape of the country, made from pieces of fabric the African group sent to them.

Nikai said he has “learnt a lot” during the process of the Learn to Live campaign.

Noreen Jones, English teacher at Frances Barber, said the project had “opened the eyes” of her pupils and allowed them to become “citizens of the world”.

“The rap has allowed them to be creative, and the project has stretched them and increased their understanding of the world,” she said. “It has given them a global perspective and encouraged their empathy and understanding of others.”

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