When realisation hits… We are lucky!

As part of my role as Teacher Librarian, I teach 2 geography classes: a year 9 class and a year 10 class. I absolutely love this. It means that I am still in the classroom every day, and I get to form really good relationships – something I think I’d miss out on if I didn’t have a class that was my own. Fellow educators, you know what I mean…

I was recently able to invite a refugee from Afghanistan into my classroom to share her story. She has been working in our kitchens as part of her TAFE studies and offered to visit classes in her last few weeks here. Having her visit was one of the best decisions I have made this year. To protect her identity, I am going to refer to her as Sam.

Sam’s story has a happy ending, she is here in Australia, she is safe, and she has a bright future. The beginning of her story however, is quite an emotional rollercoaster and an eye opener. Despite her history, Sam wanted my girls to understand that she loves Afghanistan and that her people are a happy, peace loving people. She shared not only her story, but the story of her people as well.

Here is a quick recap of Sam’s story:

Sam lost her parents when she was very young. She went to live with her uncles in the country side. When she was 12 years old she was told she had to marry an older man. She refused and was physically abused by her uncle. After a number of reconstructive surgeries she recovered and returned home from hospital, only to be forced into another engagement. At age 13 and 2 days before her wedding, she escaped to Pakistan with her aunt and cousins. After some time, they shared their story with the United Nations, and ended up being accepted as refugees to Australia. Sam now has plans to complete her English course at TAFE, and to follow that up with a social worker degree. Her end goal is to go to university.

At the end of Sam’s presentation, both my classes sat there in stunned silence, not quite sure what to say. After a few minutes of thinking, they asked some great questions and Sam very kindly answered them all. Once Sam had gone, my year 9s erupted into conversation, mostly focusing on “how can these things still be happening?!” and “imagine if that happened here!” The discussion my 9s had around the issue was interesting, and allowed us to discuss a whole range of things, least of all how lucky we are.

The reaction of my 10s was even more touching. After Sam left, my most vocal student looked me straight in the eyes and said “Ms, is it possible to adopt a refugee? I don’t know if I want to have my own kids now, or give a child like Sam a better life. Maybe I could do both?” I was floored. The discussion that followed was so heartfelt and compassionate. We talked about a whole range of things. It was such a great opportunity to discuss human rights and what they mean for us and people that have a story like Sam’s. It was one of those lessons where I walked out feeling so proud of my students, and amazed at their capacity to love and ability to envision a brighter future.

I wanted to document this experience and to share it with you all. This was such a simple lesson to deliver, but one that I will remember. In this day and age I feel it is important to raise awareness among our students about what is going on in the big wide world – lessons like these are just some of the ways in which we can prepare them to become global citizens and inspire them to think beyond themselves and their world.

Image attribution: Michael Cote. Earth at Night. (CC BY 2.0)

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