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Young Voices for Change - an international videoconference

Young Voices for Change is a project to give students from different countries the opportunity to reflect on change in their own society and to consider their own contribution to this process. It is part of the DCS .



It began with a multipoint videoconference on Friday 3rd September 2004 which linked learners in Ramallah (Palestine), Cape Town (South Africa) and Devon (UK). The conference heard presentations by the writers Beverley Naidoo and Jamila Gavin and Jehan Helon, Director of the Tamer Institute, Ramallah. It also allowed discussion between groups of students in each country about their own lives and schooling.


Thandokhulu learners 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,
Watching us,
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
So strong,
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.
And here,
It will grow,
Besides my sistes smile,
And my parents’ voices,
Besides the grief that keeps me prisoner.
And one day,
It shall break free
They will see.

But today,
I will walk quietly past
My eyes won’t stray,
To the soldiers who hold my life.
Because I know
That tomorrow
My resistance shall begin.

And I will win.


Three stories 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 “Crossings” 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 ‘weapon’ 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 ‘squeezed through twisted knuckles’ and words with ‘wings’ that would allow them to ‘breathe’.

Jamila read an extract from the ‘Surya Trilogy’ 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 ‘I am nothing because I have nothing’ and ended ‘Because I know I am the future I am going over the sky.’

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 also.

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!

In solidarity

Dave Clinch


photos taken by Rebekah (Bex) Williams of Ilfracombe College



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