Peace activist inspires Blackburn with Darwen pupils to make a difference in their communities

Published Wednesday 6 March 2019 at 12:35

A young peace activist and campaigner shared a message of hope and tolerance with pupils from eight Blackburn with Darwen secondary schools at the Schools Working Together conference last Friday (1 March).

Ahmad Nawaz, who survived a terror attack on his school in Pakistan, addressed the conference of around 60 pupils and their teachers. Since losing his brother, friends and teachers in the attack in 2014, 18 year old Ahmad campaigns for education and youth empowerment, and aims to inspire young people to take a lead role in making their communities better places to live.

The Schools Working Together conference brought together pupils from eight of the borough’s secondary schools. Pupils have collaborated over the last twelve months on activities designed to foster understanding between people from different culture and faith backgrounds.

As well as hearing from Ahmad Nawaz, last Friday’s conference also saw the teenagers take part in a number of workshops that explored themes around challenging stereotypes, countering extremist attitudes, and social integration.

Councillor Maureen Bateson, Executive Member for Children, Young People & Education, took part in the conference alongside the pupils. She said:

“It was a fantastic experience to spend the day with such intelligent and engaged young people and to hear their views on a wide range of issues. I think it’s so important to give our young people opportunities such as this to tell us what concerns them, and how they feel we can address challenges together. They have a voice and we must listen, and not just allow adults to speak for them.”

Josh Wearden, a Year 9 pupil at Pleckgate High School, commented:

“It was a really good day and we were able to share our opinions. It’s important that young people’s voices are heard as we are the future.

“I enjoyed listening to Ahmad Nawaz. It’s so inspirational that he went from near death to making a point of inspiring people to do things in their own communities.”

Ahmad Nawaz added:

“I hope that hearing my story can help these young people to relate to what happened to me, especially as I am a similar age to them. I hope I can inspire them to get involved in community action, to spread messages of hope and tolerance, and to make a difference in their communities.”

Leanne Romney, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Prevent Education Officer, organised the one-day conference, held at Ewood Park. Leanne said:

“The young delegates from all the schools involved have been inspiring. They are keen to share their views on how they can work together to build integration across the borough. They have worked so hard over the last 12 months with the Schools Working Together Project and, with their continued support, it will go from strength to strength.

“I am so proud of each and every one of them. We are hoping that some other schools in the borough may be interested in joining us. The young people have some exciting and innovative ideas on what they would like to do next, so watch this space!”

The pupils will next meet in the summer term, when they will put forward their suggestions of activities they can work on together, to strengthen the cross-cultural relationships they have begun to build.

The eight schools involved in the Schools Working Together conference were:

  • Blackburn Central High School
  • Islamiyah Girls’ High School
  • Our Lady & St John Catholic College
  • Pleckgate High School
  • Queen Elizabeth Grammar School
  • St Thomas’s Centre
  • Westholme School
  • Witton Park Academy.
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