with Beverley Naidoo, Jamila Gavin and Jehan Helou
setting off for the conference
at the Dimension Data conference centre, Cape Town
Ella Gee wrote the following poem
as a result of attending the conference.
To the Palestinians
Shattering my home.
Glass litters the ground.
I step with care,
From the cut
That lies across my face,
Cuts me in half.
They stand with their guns,
Silent and still.
Their wary eyes,
Their fingers tap, gently,
Against the metal of their weapons.
I feel their conscious thought
Follow in my footsteps,
As I return.
My grip tightens
On the rucksack
Slung so carelessly across my back.
In my mind,
An anger grows
That I cannot fight it.
Rage grips at my soul,
With hands so cold,
That I cannot escape.
My hatred is silenced.
Forcefully, my voice is lost.
But I have a weapon too.
I have something that they cannot fight.
With their piercing gaze,
I feel that they see through me
To the warrior I have become.
I keep my secret
Out of hope,
Clutched to my darkest, deepest fear.
They cannot find it.
It will grow,
Besides my sistes smile,
And my parentsâ€™ voices,
Besides the grief that keeps me prisoner.
And one day,
It shall break free
They will see.
I will walk quietly past
My eyes wonâ€™t stray,
To the soldiers who hold my life.
Because I know
My resistance shall begin.
And I will win.
from Palestine that were written after reading some of
Beverley Naidoo's work.
Young Voices for Change - Video Conference Friday 3 September
Students from 8 Devon Schools - Ilfracombe College, Clyst Vale
Community College, West Exe Technology College, Axe Valley School,
The Park School, Ivybridge Community College, Honiton Community
College and Great Torrington School - met learners from Thandokhulu
High School, Cape Town South Africa and the Tamer Institute, Ramallah
in occupied Palestine through a multipoint video conference. The
authors Beverley Naidoo and Jamila Gavin were in Cape Town along
with Jehan Helou, Director of the Tamer Institute, Ramallah, who
had travelled from Palestine.
The idea for the conference came through ongoing work on the DCS â€œCrossingsâ€ project,
in particular work that Beverley Naidoo has been doing with Ilfracombe
College students. Students from all participating schools had read
some of the works of Beverley Naidoo and Jamila Gavin in advance
of the conference
The meeting with the students from Cape Town and Ramallah had
a huge impact on the staff and students present in the digital
Media Education Centre in Exeter. After the introductions, students
asked each other questions about the backgrounds from which they
came. It became clear that there were considerable hurdles to overcome
just to arrive at school for both groups of learners.
To rise early and prepare to come to school from the Khayelitsha
Township, 25 miles away from Thandokhulu High School, or in the
case of the Ramallah learners, to negotiate the military checkpoints
of the occupying Israeli forces requires tremendous strength of
will and courage. For these reasons alone it was both an inspiring
and deeply moving experience to listen to their testimony.
The South African learners are the children of those who suffered
under the racist apartheid laws. Their parents struggled in much
the same way as the Palestinian learners do now. The images of
the heroic and courageous uprising at Soweto, for example, imprinted
themselves in the minds of all those worldwide who hated that system.
It was fascinating, therefore, to hear children of the next generation
asking questions of the Tamer Institute learners.
We were struck too by the hopes and aspirations of the students.
For all of them education was vital. A Ramallah student described
education as the â€˜weaponâ€™ with which peace and justice
could be found through an understanding of each other.
Beverley read one of her poems in which she contrasted life in
South Africa under oppression and in a free and just society. It
had a universal message as she described words â€˜squeezed
through twisted knucklesâ€™ and words with â€˜wingsâ€™ that
would allow them to â€˜breatheâ€™.
Jamila read an extract from the â€˜Surya Trilogyâ€™ again
inviting us to examine the relationship between different cultures
and the benfits of meeting to share with and accept each other
Jehan spoke about the difficulties for the students in Palestine
under the Israeli occupation. I think our students were horrified
at the injustices which these young people faced. They talked of
the checkpoints and the bulldozing of their homes. They told of
ways around the problem of being unable to reach school, sometimes
for months. Lesson plans are delivered to students under extremely
dangerous conditions. One of the Tamer Institute learners made
a powerful and penetrating plea. She asked the Devon students
how they were going to respond to what they had seen and heard.
Would they tell others
about their situation?
One of the Thandokhulu students read out a poem she had written.
It began â€˜I am nothing because I have nothingâ€™ and
ended â€˜Because I know I am the future I am going over the
Students from all Devon schools were deeply moved by the experience
and are now engaged in writing material in response to what they
heard. At Ilfracombe, my colleague Rebekah Williams are starting
a creative writing group - first meeting Monday 6 Sept - to build
on what has been learnt already and to bring it to a wider audience
in the school. We will contribute to the website(s). We will build
e-mail links with Thandokhulu High School and the Tamer Institute
We will develop this relationship. To deepen understanding through
these educational links for our youngsters is paramount.
We touched the possibilities today. It was an unforgettable experience.
Finally, I would like to thank Beverley Naidoo for inviting us
to this table and to Martin Phillips and the other staff at Dmec
for making the whole thing work!
photos taken by Rebekah (Bex) Williams of Ilfracombe