'Where are we from?'

Certain Year 8s were given this simple question last Thursday. After doing some research and asking family members, the students were eager to share where their family has originated from. We each plotted a point on a map of the location of our heritage, with people having a wide variety of backgrounds. Historian Mary Jane, who had come in to talk with us, then held up this map, and showed that not a single continent was spared across the globe. The room was amazed how far and wide our family trees spread.

The day was going to be about learning where we came from, and discussing the current school curriculum.

‘So,’ Mary Jane said, ‘What would you describe as a civilisation?’

Some suggestions from the pupils were law and order, agriculture, art, education, architecture, writing, and in particular, social hierarchy. We then had a look at places from East Africa in being some of the first civilisations on the planet. However many of these locations, bursting with history and culture, are now deserted lands. We also saw other occasions of history being neglected, with books and artifacts burned. This truly emphasized how vital it is that children are interested in history and we do not forget our pasts.

The morning’s topic turned to the Axum Empire, and how their civilisation progressed. We were fascinated about how this society made their money from ivory, ebony and more. We also recognised certain similarities between the Axum Empire’s wealth from trade and other topics that we have been learning this year. Not only this, but the people of the Axum Empire were also involved in the invention of coffee.

Later on the room was asked, ‘Who is the most rich man of all time?’ It was not, to our surprise, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, but actually Mansu Musa of Mali. We researched this man and the influence he had on the area around him. His religious views persuaded many, and his food, products and goods supporting Timbuktu.

Student Ollie Sherwin commented, ‘With someone as significant as Mansu Musa, the richest man of all time, you’d think we would have heard of him before. I think we should learn more about him at school.’

It seemed the rest of the room was in agreement with Ollie, and wanted to add more topics from across the globe into the curriculum. And so, once we were given the opportunity to make our own version of the schools’ choice of topics to teach, everyone wanted their opinion heard.

The day was full of debate, discussion, and learning another side of history.

Thanks must go to Mary Jane for taking time out of her schedule to talk to us, and the History Team for organising the event.