In Guided Reading, the children are studying the text Hidden Figures. The main theme that is present in this book is discrimination. As a result of this, we were lucky enough to be joined by a guest speaker (Paddy), who used to live in South Africa. He was able to share his first-hand experience of what life was like growing up during Apartheid.
Paddy explained that before 1994, South Africa was a racist country. We discussed what we understood by racism and then he showed us two quotes to reflect on. “What you tolerate you endorse” and “Bad things happen when you do nothing.” So these are saying that what you allow to happen, you basically agree with. For example, if you see bullying and do nothing, you are thereby saying you are ok with that. This got the children thinking about responsibilities in society. The children were shocked that racism existed and the children all stressed how wrong this was. Paddy emphasised that depending on the colour of your skin, you would have different beaches, different hospitals, different football stadiums and lots more differences.
When Paddy was at school, he was taught that people with white skins are better. He acknowledges that he had a privileged upbringing because he was white. He never saw black children until he was older. Most houses where he lived had swimming pools, which they enjoyed after school because it was so hot. Many boys would also walk around barefoot because it was too hot for shoes. Schools there now have mixed race classes and that is how it should be. “A vase of flowers is beautiful because it has different colours,” he told us. The children were thoroughly engaged in finding out what life was like for somebody growing up during Apartheid and Paddy was impressed with the children’s knowledge and maturity. He took questions throughout the session and answered them.