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Case study: Helping Scottish children learn lessons from Srebrenica

The comprehensive set of lesson plans can be used across the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and provide students with the vocabulary to understand it and condemn genocide. Pupils learn that the seeds of prejudice are rooted in everyday language, as they explore key terms such as prejudice, stereotype and persecution in a range of activities.
Portobello High School, in Edinburgh, is one of the first schools in Scotland to use the pack. Teachers at the school are excited about the educational opportunities that the resource gives to their pupils.

English: Language uniting and dividing communities
English teacher Verity Sinclair said: “Language can be a powerful first step in either uniting or dividing a community. The lessons invite students all to reassess what language we allow to be used as currency in our communities and provide them with the tools to identify and potentially disable the ways that early divisions occur.”

Pupils take part in an exercise which sees them consider their rights – placing them in order of importance and explaining their thought process. They then consider the time line of genocide and match up which rights have been taken away at which point.

This prompts questions and discussion about what types of rights are chipped away first. Pupils consider whether this was surprising and what this tells us about the nature of prejudice. They discuss whether it makes us reassess what we consider important.

Literacy: Analysis and questioning – a search for truth
Literacy support is a key part of Portobello High’s academic focus. In S1 all students visit the Library for six literacy lessons led by the Librarian. This literacy block introduces students to a number of important skills such as analysing texts, skimming and scanning information, evaluating through questioning, accessing information, referencing and assessing the reliability of information.

Librarian Lauren Thow said: “Session 4 of the Remembering Srebrenica lesson materials, Being a critical consumer of information, offers an ideal opportunity to build upon and further develop the skills introduced in these S1 lessons with older year groups.”

History: Learning the lessons from the past to create a better future
Building on the lessons on Children’s Rights, history teachers at Portobello High School are using the Srebrenica resource as part of their Inter Disciplinary Learning Project with S3 pupils.

History teacher Mamie Philp explained that creating learning experiences to enable young people to reflect on the causes of wars and the circumstances that can lead to genocide could help them to confront to some degree the nature of what took place.

“Some question: why teach history at all?” she said. “The main argument is that you can’t change the past and the mistakes of the past are often repeated – so why bother? Indeed, it is famously said that history repeats itself and will continue to do so until we learn the lessons of the past. But surely learning the lessons of the past is the point?

“We have to look at the examples of the past, such as the Holocaust and Srebrenica, to show young people where conditions for genocide existed and where they can lead. We need to show that challenging behaviours such as intolerance and exclusion in our day to day lives sets us on the path to cohesive communities and the potential to learn those lessons of the past. And give us hope that future generations will avoid genocide.”

Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights
Portobello High School is teaching pupils to deliver training to staff on promoting rights-based values, attitudes, skills and practices to ensure that the staff understand their role as duty bearers.

Deputy head teacher Alison Fotheringham said: “The training will ensure that staff have a knowledge and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The pupils are using the Recognising and Realising Children’s Rights resource developed by Education Scotland to put together their training for staff and the Srebrenica lessons provide another vehicle that can be used in this process.”

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David Hamilton

Secretary, Treasure and Trustee of the Charity

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