If there is one thing that is most striking about the environment of schools in most parts of the Middle East, it is the remarkable multi-cultural and multi-ethnic backgrounds of the students and teachers. Although, grounded on one platform, united through the common goal of educating and bettering themselves, the uniqueness of each student stemming from their various backgrounds, can present a plethora of learning opportunities.
Theme Based Learning
Talking about diversity can build tolerance and respect. It can lead to a whole new way of thinking. Get children to talk about one theme and how within that one theme, various aspects can differ. This can be intriguing and fun at the same time. Whether it is conversing about clothes, food, or hobbies … each student will have something different to say.
Getting children of one nationality to make presentations, soft-boards, collages, skits, etc. can show off the colours and practices of that one culture up close. An advantage of this type of activity is that commonly misconceived stigmas can be disproved.
Visit ‘culturally rich’ places
These don’t necessarily have to be museums. Ask different (and willing) families to host a class for the day. This allows the children to have clear insight into what these families’ daily lives are like. It exposes them to daily customs and practices. Later, they can talk and critically evaluate the differences and similarities to their own.
Every school should have a strict policy of anti-racism. Often, a lot of cultural behaviour stems from religion and geographic placement of the country of origin. Children need to know that all human beings are born equal. Bullying on grounds of race should not be tolerated. These sentiments should be embedded within the practices of all schools.
Celebrate National Days
A school may have, children belonging to at least ten different nations. Schools could allow those kids to wear their traditional dresses on that day, bring food typically associated with that region to share with others and teach basic native language phrases to their classmates. Sometimes, the children, in the midst of all the hectic day-to-day routines can lose touch with their own roots. An activity like this can rekindle the spirit of uniqueness and get them to reconnect with their own cultures.
Culture is the sum of all the experiences that a particular group of people has passed down from generation to generation. Advancements in technology and ease of travel have allowed for customs, traditions and beliefs to get infused with each other. The risk of some cultures disappearing could become a real threat. On the other end of the spectrum, there are still narrow-minded and biased people out there who will resort to bullying tactics to show some type of superiority over others. School is the one place that tolerance and respect can be taught early, to combat a lot of the problems being faced in the world today. The schools of the Middle East, with their diverse youngsters, are in a uniquely strong position to do just that.
By Rahima Jabeen
Rahima conducts teacher training and uses her blog, Young Islamic Minds, to assist parents with their children’s education. Her Facebook page, Unleashing The Teacher Within, is aimed at motivating educators. Rahima also has a makeup review blog, Yet More Makeup.