Can you imagine 500 primary school children sitting together in complete silence for a full minute? They had just listened to a poem “I am an African Child” and heard about the day in 1976 when schoolchildren were killed during protests in South Africa and they were sitting in silent reflection. The rest of the Day of the African Child was about celebration and learning. It started with a grand parade when pupils from fifteen schools trooped round the field at Lillington Primary School with banners proclaiming their links with schools in Bo, Sierra Leone, as part of the education programme of One World Link.
The children were then divided into groups for a series of contrasting workshops. In two rooms there was quiet as they listened to African stories told by teachers visiting from Bo. They were making plenty of noise in the drumming workshops as they learnt to play rhythms on djembes. In two halls there was drama as they acted out a cliff-hanger story about a boy stuck in a tree surrounded by crocodiles, a snake and a lion; how could he escape? Nearby there was vigorous dancing, and in a marquee there was equally enthusiastic singing. In the field outside children were having races bowling hoops, carrying water or balancing bags on their heads.
There were formal proceedings, too. The visiting teachers had brought letters from the Sierra Leonian children as gifts for their linked schools and received reciprocal gifts to take back with them. Pupils from each school presented petitions to our MP, Matt Western, to pass on to the Prime Minister to press for education for all children, everywhere. Finally all 500 children joined in the songs they had learnt earlier in the day – what a loud and happy sound to round off the day!
You can hear the poem on YouTube: I am an African Child