Commonwealth Class is a programme that has been brought together by the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat to celebrate the values of the Commonwealth, and connect schools and young people across the world on joint learning programmes. The aim of Commonwealth Class is to encourage students to collaborate and learn together, as well as, consider how they can be more active and responsible global citizens as part of the Commonwealth family. The Commonwealth Class initiative also enables schools to take part in online debates, competitions and work on projects with the aim of giving young people a unique and hands-on international learning experience based around the Commonwealth family of countries.
Thus, in its support of thousands of schools in over 30 countries of the world and its enhancement of both the teaching and learning processes for teachers and young people, the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat recently ran an international short story writing competition based on theme of ‘Belonging’ which received over three thousand (3,000) entries from both school children and teachers from Commonwealth countries around the world. Each Commonwealth country has a rich heritage of storytelling which was reflected in the competition. Pupils aged 7-14 years and their teachers were invited to express their experiences and thoughts around ‘Belonging’ in the form of a short story or an illustration.
While presenting award to the second position winner, Ngozi Razak-Soyebi from Zamani College, Kaduna at the public presentation of awards to winners and reading of the writers’ works which held on Friday, March 31, 2017 by 11am at the British Council Grounds, Maitama, Abuja, Harriet Thompson, the Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission expressed her excitement in the positive impacts which Commonwealth Class is currently making by bringing the core values of the Commonwealth to life in the classroom in more than 50 participating countries. She said: “It is about connecting students and teachers around the world, exploring and sharing their thoughts on the topics such as access to education, protection the environment, food, shelter and respect for others”. Thompson however, commended the efforts of all the teachers who participated in this competition and especially, the efforts of the winners: Ngozi Soyebi, Olumide Aluko, Peter Brown and Vera Obiakor whose stories have received international recognition. Interestingly, Ngozi’s award-winning story gave details of the daily pressures on, and temptations for, an abandoned street child in the city and also gave hints of a permanently happy ending.
Anne Fine, one of the judges of the competition and a former Children’s Laureate admitted: “I valued this opportunity to read stories from so many parts of the world. I’m of the generation that learned about the richness and variety of the commonwealth way back in primary school. But judging this competition reminded me of its sheer strengths and wonders, as well as making me even more aware of the enormous problems so many nations within it still face”.
I personally commend this initiative and hope more is done in this light to promote creative writing and quality story telling among these younger ones. What about you?