"It doesn't matter what skin colour... It matters about the friendship"

This charity is combating segregation and discrimination in our schools

19th November 2018

A children’s education charity has developed a scheme to help halt racism and segregation in the UK.

Leeds Development Education Centre (DEC) is trying to make future a more inclusive one, with its Britain United programme, working with children from a range of backgrounds.

The programme hopes to do this by reaching out to school pupils, adults and families, and reminding them that despite our differences, there is so much we all have in common. 

The programme is funded by the Home Office’s Building a Stronger Britain Together scheme, which, according to the government “supports civil society and community organisations who work to create more resilient communities, stand up to extremism in all its forms and offer vulnerable individuals a positive alternative, regardless of race, faith, sexuality, age and gender”.

Leeds DEC held its first ever inter-community school event earlier this week. Three schools attended, with a majority of each of their students coming from vastly different backgrounds. They were encouraged to interact, work together on activities and listen to a number of talks.

It’s natural to be scared of people who look different to you, but you can often find things in common

The three schools that attended the event were Hovingham, Beechwood and South Kirkby Primary school.

Hannah Langdana, services coordinator for Leeds DEC, explained more about the two-day eevent. She said: “We’ve been doing a project with three different schools — all of them from very different communities — looking at the things we have in common, the things that make us unique and special, and how it’s natural to be scared of people who look different to you, but you can often find things in common.”

The event began on Monday at The Infinity Centre and wrapped up the following day at The Kentmere Centre, with a number of guest speakers, workshops and games spread across the two days. 

Andy Brooks, who goes by the stage-name Testament, was one of the guest speakers who attended the event. A one-time Guinness World Record holder for the largest human beat-box ensemble put together, the MC and rapper held a unique and interactive talk, which taught the pupils about diversity and integration through Hip-Hop music and beat-boxing.

Brooks described the nature of his talk to The Overtake: “The talk I gave was about hip-hop and how hip-hop was born out of different cultures working together, and if you didn’t have that you wouldn’t have hip-hop.”

While there was plenty of fun to be had and lots of light-hearted talks, some aspects of the event focused on more serious issues. Langdana described how challenging, but ultimately useful, it is for young pupils to hear about issues like hate crime, allowing them to empathise with the stories of victims.

It doesn’t matter about what skin colour you have. It matters about the friendship

But what did the children learn from the two day event, other than how to beat-box? Ianis Tiuga Petru, 11, from Hovingham Primary School said: “I think it is good [that we are different] because it doesn’t matter where you are from and who you are, but you can still have similar things.”

Alex David, 11, from Beechwood Primary School told The Overtake: “We have been learning about each other. We have been learning about our similarities and differences.” 

Judging by the children’s comments, Leeds DEC’s event has had the intended effect on many students. Alexandra Surdu, 10, from Hovingham Primary School may well have summed it up best though: “It doesn’t matter about what skin colour you have. It matters about the friendship.”

19th November 2018