Learners across 123 countries discover from victims how some everyday luxuries are paid for in blood
When Jimiyke was 10 he was kidnapped by his sister's boyfriend, dragged into the bush, drugged and forced to fight in the Sierra Leone civil war. His salvation was education, and now he is a key contributor to Rafi.ki's Blood Diamonds Project to share his insights with learners across 123 countries.
Jimiyke's experiences are familiar to children in scores of armed struggles fuelled by "conflict minerals". More than five million lives have already been lost in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and there are worries that Afghanistan will be the next region to be “cursed” by the discovery of precious minerals.
Precious minerals like diamonds and gold have long caused mayhem through crude exploitation and illegal trading. And more recently there have been “the three Ts” – tin (cassiterite) tantalum (coltan) and tungsten – which are crucial for mobile phones and consumer technology, along with lithium which has recently been found in huge quantities in Afghanistan.
"It’s ironic but the discovery and exploitation of precious resources can be enormously harmful for developing countries," says Rafi.ki programmes co-ordinator Chris Llewellyn. “The extraction techniques are often inhumane, with underage workers struggling in hideous conditions.
'It is vital that students and teachers understand the effects of their purchasing decisions'
“The fact that huge amounts of the profits from these valuable commodities flow directly to the perpetrators of these and other human rights abuses needs to be widely known across the wider world. It is vital that students and teachers understand the real effects that their purchasing decisions in this country can have on the other side of the world.”
That’s why Rafi.ki developed the Blood Diamonds project, to raise awareness in its own global learning community and tailor materials for curriculum use. While the main focus is on global citizenship the lesson plans also highlight relevant use in geography, English (including literacy) and ICT. Because of the nature of the subject the project is aimed at 11 to 16-year-olds (key stages 3 and 4, and Scottish levels E and G and the start of Scottish Highers). (There is also a version of Blood Diamonds on the ‘sister’ Kidogo service for primary schools.)
Working together in their own classrooms and collaborating online across the world within the safe social networking technology created by parent charity Gemin-i, students learn how the mining of valuable minerals, especially diamonds, gold and coltan, has skewed the political, economic, social and ecological structure of large areas of Africa, particularly the DRC and Sierra Leone.
They consider the resulting global issues and also conduct an awareness campaign within their community and to wider audiences. They also provide examples of the kinds of action individuals can take to improve the lives of those on the frontline.
Motivation in heightened by the creation of exciting awareness-raising campaigns and they have the opportunity to take part in “hot seat” interviews on the Rafi.ki site so they can gather further evidence for their studies. Via the site, they link to their peers across the world, asking and answering questions, sharing their views and displaying their work.
It’s not just an online project. In January 2010 Jimiyke (pictured above) visited London for medical treatment resulting from his experiences. While here he also attended the BETT educational technology show to meet with UK students for interviews and collaborations. Videos of the interviews conducted by students from Central Foundation Girls’ School, Tower Hamlets, can be seen on the Rafi.ki site.
Rafi.ki also has video material (see below) showing the work that Ishmael Beah, who suffered similar events and is the author of A Long Way Gone and the UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War, carried out with students in New York.
'Were you scared for your parents or too caught up in trying to get away?'
The young men fielded a wide range of questions, the most common of which was probably, “What’s it like living in a war zone?” The answers were honest and direct, like Ishmael’s when New York students asked him, ”Were you scared for your parents or too caught up in trying to get away?”
Ishmael: ”When I was young I just needed to run. When you hear gunshots and your town is being attacked you don’t have very much time to think of brothers and sisters and family. You just run for your life. And after that running stops, that’s when you begin to worry.”
Reaction to the project has been extremely positive. Abdi, a student at Moat CC in Leicester commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed the Blood Diamonds project… I did some research and used my own knowledge from my Rafi.ki meetings and used that to prepare a presentation to teach the Rafi.ki group the meaning of ‘blood diamond’ and its link to Sierra Leone. I then delivered the presentation at the next meeting and taught the group so that they could go off and prepare their own presentations too. This gave me deep satisfaction because I left the meeting feeling that I had achieved something and at the same time learnt something. So I hope to carry on and hopefully do other presentation on other similar projects.”
But the reaction is more significant from the place where people are still living with the aftermath. From Freetown, Sierra Leone, Jimiyke, says: “Blood Diamonds is important because it explains why our country has suffered a lot. It is important that people in the UK understand how diamonds make big problems for people in other countries.
“My students like having discussions with people at different schools and I like the fact that they know that diamonds are not worth fighting or dying for.”
More about the Blood Diamonds project
The unit consists of six lessons with opportunities for students to carry out independent research both in and out of the classroom. Some of the work can take part in other curriculum areas e.g. report writing in literacy time and activities can be tailored to meet the needs and interests of individual students.
According to age and ability students will have:
- increased knowledge of the global impact of buying commodities and recognition of the links between the desire for control of natural resources, conflict and environmental destruction;
- developed the skills and knowledge to conduct an awareness raising campaign within their community and to wider audiences;
produced a global action plan and shared it with partner schools using Rafi.ki’s communication tools;
- launched their global actions and been awarded global action points which are published and updated on the project’s online exhibition and displayed through a “global action gauge” so students can monitor each others’ progress;
- made use of ICT in general, and the Rafi.ki site in particular, to increase their knowledge of the topic and to link with their peers across the world.
- practised the skills of analysing, reasoned argument, negotiation and compromise.
To take part in Blood Diamonds, register your school for the free silver membership at www.rafi.ki
A long way gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, by Tim Butcher
Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones, by Greg Campbell
More about conflict minerals
I'm a Mac… and I've Got a Dirty Secret (below, an Enough Project campaign)