British schoolchildren learn empathy for refugees

In a quiet suburban school in northwest London, young children are asked to imagine that they need to leave their homes because Britain is at war.

As they close their eyes and sit in silence, their teacher Teri-Louise O’Brien explains that there are 60 million displaced people in the world right now. “Time to reflect: how would you feel if you had no home? Take a pen, and write your feelings on the paper.”

O’Brien then switches off the lights before playing a short video of Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon and Jordan. 10-year-old Naavya, since learning about the refugee crisis, said she no longer finds her classmate, a Syrian refugee, “annoying”.

“I do learn that it can be really hard for him,” Naavya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I didn’t even know [the Syrian war] was happening when he first came. I kind of feel sad for him because he had to leave [his country].”

Britain is home to 126,000 refugees, according to the British Red Cross, and received nearly 40,000 asylum applications last year of which 45 percent were approved. The largest numbers of asylum seekers were from Eritrea, Pakistan then Syria.

The teacher uses lesson plans, supplied by the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF), to encourage children to ask questions. The students’ parents are also encouraged to discuss the issues at home. “We want them to understand that everybody is human, and everybody is the same and that they need to look after each other,” she said.

[Reuters]

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