Journalist and Activist Roger Thurow leads students from Uganda and Hackney in a session on world hunger

7 October 2013

Image of journalist Roger Thurow running a joint session for students in Hackney and UgandaIn the week leading up to David Cameron’s ‘hunger conference’ (a meeting of national leaders prior to the G8 summit), students from Hackney and Uganda had the opportunity to hear from Roger Thurow on the issue of hunger and malnutrition, before discussing and exchanging their views on the topic. Roger reported for the Wall Street Journal for 20 years and has been writing and campaigning about hunger since 2003. Sylvia Mwichuli of AGRA, who has worked on advocacy campaigns aimed at creating awareness about the Millennium Development Goals, also spoke about the issue. The Buyinja School from Uganda joined the event via Skype and 100 students on Petchey Academy’s ‘Global Perspectives’ course at Petchey Academy attended at their school.

Roger started by explaining what spurred him to take up the cause. Students heard how he met 5 year old Hagirso in 2003 Ethiopian famine: “I realised I couldn’t leave this story and move onto other stories…this is the story I need to focus my life on… Hunger in the 21st century”. In addition to emphasising the devastating impact hunger has on individuals, Roger also did a superb job at illustrating to the students how our ‘globalised’ world means we are all impacted by hunger and malnutrition, even when not experiencing it directly. He explained that hunger “costs the world economy three trillion dollars” because “people can’t work for as long… it affects them and the country they live in.” He made the link between lost human potential and national economies by using the example of Bill Gates: “if he had been stunted, then maybe there would be no Microsoft.”

After hearing from Roger and Sylvia, students formed groups to discuss what they had heard and brainstorm ideas on how to tackle hunger- both practical steps they could take right now and actions different nations could pursue in the future. The Ugandan students were asked to focus on what they thought Britain could do to follow through on the promises to tackle hunger. This activity was a key part of the day- as Sylvia said to all the students, “You’re not the leaders of tomorrow, you’re the leaders of today and your opinions matter”- sentiments echoed by Bill Gates when he explained his support for the Speakers for Schools scheme.

An exchange of ideas between the two schools followed the group work, and the event wrapped up with a Q&A with Roger and Sylvia. Students from Uganda asked Roger “Why do you think some countries are troubled more with poverty than others?”, who linked his answer back to the lost human potential he’d spoken of earlier in the day “a country’s greatest resources are its people, its children…in places where children are stunted that really holds back the development of your country”.

The live link between Uganda and Hackney meant students in Petchey were able to put into contexts the discussions they had been having in class and stories they’d read in the news. As in all Speakers for Schools events, the speaker’s experience and expertise in the subject matter being discussed meant the students were provided with an enhanced level of insight into a topic they’d be studying in the classroom.

This event was organised in partnership with AGRA, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and Skype in the Classroom. We’d like to thank all of these organisations and the teachers who made sure the students were well prepared- everyone’s efforts led to a truly inspirational and thought-provoking event.