‘Justice rolls like a river’
Courageous advocacy in an important term that is embedded within our church school ethos and school values: respect, belief, love, empathy, honesty and kindness. Throughout the school year, our pupils and school community are motivated and enthused to continually help and support others less fortunate. Our School Body, in response to the pupil voice, regularly plan fundraising events to support national and international causes. In recent years, we have carried out a range of different fundraising events to support many good causes including:
However, when we talk of courageous advocacy, we are referring to more than just supporting already established charities and organisations – this is vitally important and our pupils enjoy the sense of ‘coming together for the greater good’ – but through courageous advocacy, our pupils go a step further by speaking out against an issue of injustice, often on behalf of those whose voice is not heard. Speaking out, at whatever level, requires an element of courage and when our pupils have been informed about an issue and provided with the opportunity and a platform to express their feelings, they have demonstrated that they have this in abundance. It is clear that our young people have an innate sense of justice and it is therefore vital that our school staff and community at Stanton in Peak C of E Primary School foster this and provide opportunities for our pupils to drive this movement forward, embodying an ethos of action-taking, challenging injustice and becoming agents of change in the transformation of ourselves, our relationships and our communities from the local level to the global.
Weekly Collective Worships, using God’s care for the weak and the vulnerable as the vehicle to nurture pupils’ understanding, focus on his clear instructions which are demonstrated throughout his biblical teachings.
Pupils actively participate, echoing important messaging such as: the orphan, the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner should not be mistreated or taken advantage of but should, in fact, be cared for.
Whilst living in the light of resurrection hope, with a God who can do ‘immeasurably more can we could ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20), we challenge our pupils to believe they too can achieve far more than they dare to imagine.
And, of course, they do not let us down. Our pupils have an excellent grasp on the meaning of belonging to a local and global community and the sense of responsibility that comes with belonging. Thereby developing their ability to empathise and make a small sacrifice to benefit others. Together we consider the beauty and fragility of our environment, the actions we take, and the impact these actions may have on the well-being of everyone. Our school community and curriculum actively embraces a responsibility for the world in which we live. We are diligent to show our connection with, and care for, the world in which we all live and care for the people who live in it.
Our strong links with Bhowanipore Cemetery School in Kolkata have enabled our pupils and staff to broaden their horizons. An increased understanding of the poverty and hardship that the children living in the slums of Kolkata face on a daily basis combined with an awareness of the possibilities and opportunities for change has ignited a fire within our young people. They understand that children across the world are a victim of circumstance, yet these children don’t see themselves as victims – not at all. Visits to Kolkata have enabled school staff to give clear pictures of what life is like in the slums of Kolkata. This awareness and understanding has enthused pupils to make a change.
There are thousands of children living in the slums of Kolkata and for them – the right to an education does not exist. Accept it? Move on? No. The CRS (Cathedral Relief Service) and the CSS (Cathedral Social Service) programme in Kolkata has been working hard over the last decade to provide some form of education to these children. Our courageous advocates have also been inspired to make a change. Through solid links with the CRS and the CSS the school community have raised money to support the funded slum schools around the Kolkata area of West Bengal. During a staff visit in 2020, we were able to invest the money raised by our pupils and ensure every child attending our linked school ‘Bhowanipore Cemetery School’ would be provided with uniform. Despite not being able to revisit due to the pandemic, we have continued to support our linked school.
For the pupils of Bhowanipore Cemetery School, education presents them with a chance. With pupils as young as 3-years-old attending, the children have a window of opportunity. If they can develop and progress their maths and English skills to the required level, at 11 they may be accepted into state school. Once in the formal education system, they can change their lives forever.
Like us in the UK, schools and education in India have been affected drastically by the pandemic, and whilst we had the luxury of online resources and technology to help us continue to move our learning forward, for those children in the slums, this did not exist. The slum schools remain closed to date, and our school advocates recognise that the window of opportunity for those children is closing.
2021-2022 Courageous Advocacy Pupil Plan:
Recognising the injustice, our pupils drew from experiences they were aware of (the Christmas Shoebox Appeal) and formulated a plan:
Each child at Stanton in Peak C of E Primary School will contribute towards an ‘Learning Box’. Each learning box will be sent over to Kolkata and, through the help of our contacts at the CRS and CSS, be distributed to each child who attends Bhowanipore Cemetery School.
Learning Box: pencils, paper, dual language English-Bengali reading book, English picture number cards, a teddy.
‘Just because they cannot attend their school and don’t have the technology we are lucky enough to have, does not mean they cannot still learn. If they have pencils, paper and some learning materials, it might make all the difference.’
Stanton in Peak C of E Primary School Courageous Advocates
Each Learning box will also include a hand written letter in either Hindi or Bengali from our pupils.
Other ongoing initiatives: