This year’s Refugee Week saw pupils at Essex Primary School investigating the many ways society is enriched by welcoming refugees.
The week’s culmination was a colourful celebration in music, dance, and drama by Year 5 on Friday, 17 June 2017.
The pupils worked extremely hard to build this performance, guided by award-winning musicians, led by Sarah Jewel. Spread throughout the school’s carefully balanced curriculum, pupils investigated the lives of refugees such as the Dalai Lama, Ema Hussein and Gloria Estefan. They then used role play, dance and the composition and rehearsal of songs to creatively express what they had learned.
The audience were treated to a musical journey that began in India before moving to Iraq and Latin America, via Africa. A fusion of the language, beats, music and ideas of a specific nation told the refugees’ stories.
Pupils sang, played steel drums, danced, and performed some impressive acrobatics. There followed a dramatic representation of how one family of Iraqi refugees underwent a terrifying wait at Baghdad International Airport as they fled.
The atmosphere in the hall was tense as the family approached UK immigration: would they be let through? The relief in the audience as the family received assistance at the UK border was palpable.
With each new song or speech it was clear how committed the pupils were to the subject.
Building on the lessons learned from the success of the school’s general election, pupils were keen to find solutions by applying their new knowledge of the democratic process to answer the question: “If you were voted into government, how would you solve the world’s refugee crisis?” The audience was encouraged to consider whether the UK Government should create a Minister for Refugees.
After Head Teacher Rosie Cowan spoke about the school’s belief in democracy and fairness, the pupils presented their manifestoes for the Minister for Refugees. Four candidates presented their strongest policy: a safe place to live in, respect for everyone, shelter and food and education for all. Cheers from pupils and parents for showed support for favoured policies.
It was hard to predict the winner of the election; however when the new Minister was announced and made his pledge to serve the community faithfully, there was general approval.
East Ham MP Stephen Timms then spoke to the audience of how much he had had enjoyed the concert and congratulated the children on their great enthusiasm.
He then spoke movingly of his friend and former colleague, MP Jo Cox, who had been murdered exactly one year before.
Stephen asked those present to continue her good work as much as possible, repeating Ms Cox’s own words to end his speech: “We have much more in common than what divides us”.
In a final tribute to Jo Cox, the pupils performed a heartfelt rendition of HumanKind, composed by Michael Solomon Williams in her memory.
Rosie closed the performance saying: “There is an honesty and wisdom to children, and we must acknowledge their ability to see the truth.”