Children in classrooms around the UK are being twinned with children living in war zones and refugee camps, as part of a new initiative to break down geographical and cultural divides.
“Education is vital for children affected by war so they can learn the skills they need to build a future,” said War Child on the campaign website. “But they also need to learn to overcome their fear. They need to learn to be children again. They need to learn to live.”
The first messages have already been sent, according to reports, between Year 9 students at Carshalton Boys Sports College and Hornsey School for Girls.
Children at the two London schools sent video messages to children in one of the largest refugee camps in the world — Za'atari. Around 80,000 people are currently living in the camp, in northern Jordan, having fled their homes in Syria.
Escaping a warzone isn't the same as escaping war. #LearnToLive is all about making sure children affected by conflict have the mental health and education support they need to build futures to look forward to.— War Child UK (@WarChildUK) September 11, 2018
We want you to get involved! ➡️ https://t.co/2vJpd3jiGVpic.twitter.com/huREyWjWP9
“We did not know people in London had hijabs like us, it is nice,” one girl, Dina, 16, told the Independent, after watching the video message. Another, 16-year-old Areej, added: “We had different expectations. I did not know they wear skirts like us.”
In her response, with the children living in Za'atari replying with letters, Dina wrote: “In my country the children face child labour, what are the challenges British children face?”
The campaign has already received the support of War Child’s celebrity ambassadors actress Carey Mulligan and singer Sam Smith, as well as Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s secretary of state for international development.
“From the Syrian refugee camps to the attacks on the Rohingya, conflict and crises are disrupting the education of 75 million young people across the world — risking creating a lost generation,” said Mordaunt. “Even when these children are in school, they’re often too distressed or traumatised to learn.”
“UK aid is working in the world’s most dangerous conflict zones to provide psychosocial support, good teaching, and vital resources to ensure the world’s most vulnerable children get the vital quality education they need to ultimately rebuild their communities and countries,” she added.
Teachers and pupils who are interested in joining the scheme are being encouraged to visit campaign partners Connecting Classrooms — a global education programme run by the British Council in partnership with the Department for International Development (DfID).
Meanwhile, Andria Zafirakou, an art teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, who has been named the world’s best teacher, described it as “such a pure thing to do.”
“Children abroad will be learning about other communities and those in our own country will realise what is going on elsewhere,” she told the Independent.
“If they can connect as children and find out about each other’s worlds you will have a powerful little army,” she added. “They will go on to raise awareness in their own school and communities, and become a really powerful force.”
#UKaid is proud to have supported 7.1 million children to gain a decent education including at least 3.3 million girls through our Girls' Education Challenge. #LeaveNoGirlBehind#WorldLiteracyDaypic.twitter.com/N5bRJWaWsJ— DFID (@DFID_UK) September 8, 2018
Mulligan said: “Psychosocial support is a vital and vastly underfunded part of recovery for a child who has experienced the trauma of conflict, and we must do more to ensure that children can access it.”
Smith added: “If we want to have a lasting impact on the lives of children in conflict we need to do more than provide the basics of shelter, food, and medical supplies. We all know how important it is for children to play as well as having support and emotional wellbeing, which is why Learn to Live is such an amazing campaign.”
The partners are now calling for schools across the country to join the campaign, to help pupils learn more about the lives, families, and cultures of children all over the world.