In Vengthlang Middle School, the students of class VIII are sitting around their teacher in a semicircle. Their eyes are fixed on the yellow wall, on which the day’s lesson is projected. When the projector is switched off, their gazes meet those of the other classmates, and they begin to share and discuss together. The school is located in the township of Vengthlang Champai, in northeast India, home to a large community of forcibly displaced people from Myanmar, where JRS conducts “Connector Peace Sessions” for both students from the Myanmarese community and students from the local community.
For displaced children, adapting to a new context is not easy. The difficulty of adjusting to an education system completely different from the one in place in Myanmar, as well as having to learn the language of the local community, can lead to a very stressful situation. Due to certain social and cultural differences, students sometimes face bullying and discrimination. “I used to make fun of other children who lived in a different condition from mine. Now I know that it is necessary sometimes to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to be careful about the words you use because they can hurt, and that discrimination between people should not exist,” says Khin, 13, originally from Kanaan, and among the participants in the sessions.
JRS teams conduct “Connector Peace Sessions” in the country, with the aim of preventing such situations by promoting the school as a safe space where students can themselves build bridges between displaced and local communities, facilitating social cohesion and reconciliation. “Sessions have already been held in four project locations, but there are still other places where they can be conducted. This is the first time we have introduced this type of activity in schools in northeast India, and we have been surprised by the positive response we got from the students. We believe and hope that this project will continue to create greater understanding and empathy between forcibly displaced and host communities,” concludes a facilitator of the sessions and JRS team member.