A Qatar Foundation school is helping young people discover their voices while fostering skills that will better prepare them to make changes within their communities and beyond,
The Voice, Agency, Protest unit was created by Melissa Kandido, a teacher at Qatar Academy Sidra (QAS) part of Qatar Foundation‘s (QF) Pre-University Education and was taught to Grade 11 and 12 English Language and Literature students last semester for the first time.
‘The unit was built to encompass wider conceptual questions. For example, what does it mean to have voice, what does it mean to use your voice, when do you choose to use it, when do you silence it, when are you silenced?
‘Agency is when you choose to act upon the voice you have or use whether that is in a social media space or an active space and how you want to use it. And then, do you want to use it in protest way are you looking for reformation or revolution in different spaces?
The unit was taught through combining a variety of bodies of work from poetry and op-eds to photo essays and podcasts and featured guest speakers including writers, filmmakers, and activists.
The content primarily focused on the Black Lives Matter social movement, but included other topics of discussions, such as the Arab Spring and the Vietnam War.
Speaking about the relevance of the unit, Kandido says: ‘For 16-, 17-, and 18-year-old students, developing a voice, finding a voice, and figuring out what to do with that voice is incredibly important.
‘At this point, they’re being told what to study, they’re being told what to do for the most part, and how to get to the next point in life. So their lives probably feel quite organized, or directed, by older people.
‘This unit served as an opportunity for everyone to come together from whatever space and time they’re in, and whatever their level of understanding of social movements to have a discussion. And that discussion is important.
A QAS student who took the course last semester, Reem Abdulla A A Al-Mannai said: ‘What I enjoyed most about the unit was definitely being given the opportunity to explore a variety of different texts, as well as speaking to some influential authors, regarding this topic.
‘It was truly inspiring to see how they use voice, agency, and protest throughout their lives and share it with others. Over the course of the six weeks, I learned how to advocate as an individual about certain topics that are important to me, even if it is on a small scale, as any change can be good. I also gained a lot of knowledge about how much struggle some racial and ethnic groups have to go through to have something as simple as equality and the justice they deserve.
‘This course has helped prepare for the for the future, because it has brought to my attention issues that I didn’t know existed, as well as teaching me how to use voice agency and protest to stand up for the things I believe in.
Collaboration was a key aspect of the unit, with Kandido reaching out to other QF schools asking if any other teachers would be interested in taking part with their respective classes.
‘I went into this unit with a purposeful desire to connect high school students to other high school students outside of their current QAS bubble, she says. ‘So I reached out to other Diploma Programme teachers, asking if they wanted to digitally connect students so they have a bigger pool of understanding.
‘A teacher from Qatar Academy Al Khor responded, so essentially she taught her students in her COVID space, I taught my students in my COVID space, and they connected virtually.
Kandido is also working with the Black Student Association at QF partner Georgetown University in Qatar, with 15 students virtually attending classes when possible, and then providing feedback to the students.
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