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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 10:05 GMT
School Day 24: Connecting children
By Jasper Bouverie
Co-ordinator, School Day 24

School Day 24, taking place on 6 December, is all about linking schools across conflicts, tensions and divides.

The idea was born out of a project carried out by BBC News 24. To mark the 30th anniversary of the Soweto uprising in June 2006, the channel linked a school in Wigan in the north of England with a school in Soweto.

Pupils from schools in London and Baghdad
Students at schools in London and Iraq will be linking up
The project was a huge success. The children enjoyed it. It made for good television. And it seemed to indicate a future for a world where everyone was communicating openly: pulling together rather than competing or tearing each other apart.

So we at the BBC World Service have taken the concept and applied it to some of the world's most troubled areas.

Children from Moscow and Chechnya will have the chance to discuss their different attitudes to the conflict. There are also link-ups between Israelis and Palestinians; Indians and Pakistanis; Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo; Iranians and Americans; Sinhalese and Tamils.

All being well with visas and vaccinations, a link-up will also take place between the children across the government-rebel divide in the Ivory Coast.

But the project is not just about conflict areas. Differences in economic background, religion and home environment also make for fertile grounds for discussion.

So children in Nigeria will be talking with children in the UK. Mexican and American children will discuss their different attitudes to migration. Burmese exiles of different ethnic groups will discuss the future of their country. Children of different faiths in Indonesia will discuss religious education.

Building bridges

Everywhere children who have inherited mistrust, dogma and even hatred from the older generation will have the chance to talk openly with children from "the other side".

So what will they talk about?

Pupils from Indonesian schools
Indonesian children of different faiths will debate religious education
The producers who are carrying out this project have all worked hard to make sure that the exchanges that occur on the day will be driven by the schoolchildren. They will be asking their own questions born out of their own curiosity.

In many cases teachers at schools around the world have been working with classes to come up with shortlists of five questions that they want to ask "the other side" - and the results could be very surprising.

We adults might imagine that teenage children in Moscow and Chechnya will want to talk about the conflict - and that is why we have selected the schools concerned - but it is by no means a guarantee that they will do so. They may prefer to talk about pop music, football, fashion or even the conditions of the school toilets.

The hope is that School Day 24 will not just be about conflict and divide but also about building bridges. That is why the more people who get involved the better. This is a bid from the world's teenagers for peace and reconciliation between people with differences of opinion. Hopefully it will leave a legacy.

We don't know what will happen on 6 December. Will the dogma result in conflict on air between the children involved? Or will youthful optimism, energy and hope win through?

What is certain is that it promises to be a highly unpredictable day. You can see it all unfold on this website.


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