Sunday, September 8, 2019

Exploring themes of Diversity and Discrimination - A Panel Discussion

A fresh perspective, a different outlook, new opinions and thoughts… this is what allows our students to constantly evolve and develop through their learning. Learning is never limited to only what surrounds us. While we learn best from our surroundings, in order for it be well-rounded, it’s important to explore topics in the bigger picture and to keenly listen to the experiences and opinions of others from different cultures and backgrounds. 
In an attempt to explore the big picture of the various facets of diversity and discrimination around our world, a panel discussion was held for the students of class six, seven and eight at our school. The topic seemed fitting for all three classes as they explored themes of diversity, discrimination, equality and learnt about the Indian Constitution in their individual classes. Our aim was for our students to gain an understanding on a local as well as a global level and make the interconnections between these themes at various levels. 
Our first two panellists were Célia Dufournet and Davis Saul, body mime practitioners from Toulouse, France who were spending a month at NIRMAN working on various projects and conducting workshops. And our third panellist was Nita Kumar, director of NIRMAN.
Our first speaker, Célia Ma’am, shared her experience of living in France and America and her experiences of being a woman in different countries, including India where she was currently traveling. Célia also spoke about racism in France and how it affects the lives of immigrants and refugees. She also taught students some greetings in French, hoping they would embrace different cultures and languages with equal enthusiasm as they adopt that which is familiar to them!
‘Race’ and ‘Racism’ were new terms for our students, since the conversation about discrimination was centric to ‘caste’ or ‘religion’ so far. Célia’s talk explored themes of gender and race for our students and in response to her talk, many asked questions about the causes of discrimination, if she was discriminated or had discriminated someone and the differences and similarities in India and France.
Our second speaker, Nita Ma’am, shared experiences of her childhood about how she had understood the difference on the basis of one’s ‘class’ very early on, in the company of Shankar, a helper in their house. She spoke about caste and class discrimination in India and how any form of discrimination is dangerous as it completely devalues the person being discriminated.
Students quickly made connections from her talk to their lives and asked questions about class discrimination in India, how can one define discrimination and the difference between inequality and discrimination. 
Our third speaker, Davis Sir, spoke about religious diversity in the world and introduced our students to Judaism. He shared his experiences of being a Jew and the history of the religion as well as the atrocities that Jewish people had faced during World War II.
Through this talk, students learnt about the multiplicity of religions in the world and how some people choose to be religious and some do not. They also learnt about how certain sections of the world have been discriminated against throughout history.
  In response to the panel discussion, class 6 students wrote reflections in their diary. Here are a few excerpts:  

Reflection #1  
“In Panel Discussion, we were talking about discrimination and inequality. We learnt it in three different ways. First France, second America and third, India.

We asked questions about discrimination and inequality. One by one, sir and ma’am told us what is discrimination and inequality. In France, we learn what type of discrimination is happening in that country and in America, the difference between discrimination and inequality.”

Reflection #2
“Today, I and my class went to class 7 for a discussion with Celia Ma’am, Davis Sir and Nita Ma’am. The topic was Diversity, Inequality and Discrimination. After this, we know that discrimination is a thing which happens with everyone, at least once!
In USA, there are many races and the white skin is special for them. It’s high like ‘Bhramins’ over here. The black skin is (treated like a) waste by them, like ‘Shudras’ over here!”

Riya Parikh,
Teacher and Researcher, 

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