A state primary school which encouraged children to dress in saris, sing Hindu songs and perform folk dances to celebrate Diwali is being held up as an example of how a school can work to encourage religious inclusion and community cohesion.
Although not a faith school and from an area which has a small ethnic minority community Thorpe Primary School in Wakefield (West Yorkshire) celebrated Diwali as a classroom topic. As well as engaging in dancing, pupils wore saris, sported bindi on their foreheads, learned the story of Ram and Sita, and explained the Diwali festival to an assembly of fellow pupils and parents.
All elementary and secondary schools of United Kingdom (UK) are now being urged to include Diwali celebrations as an annual activity.
Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that it would be ‘highly productive’ to include Diwali celebrations in more UK schools. “Awareness about other religions created by organising festivals like Diwali would make the UK pupils well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow” he said in a statement.
“It also makes good business sense to know the beliefs of ‘others’ in a global community. Students should have knowledge of the entire society to become full participants in the society.”
Thorpe Primary is located in a geographically isolated community with few amenities and high unemployment, with only about seven percent of pupils from minority ethnic families. Its aims include “helping pupils understand the World they live in" and "develop personal and moral values".
It runs a Bollywood dancing club, teaches ‘Emotional Literacy’, and recently organised “Hats for Haiti”, a fundraiser following the earthquake.
Children in year 6 put on an assembly to tell fellow pupils, along with parents and invited guests, all about the Diwali festival as part of their lessons on Hinduism.
Diwali is a five-day festival celebrated in Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism and was celebrated on Friday this year.
During the festival, celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends, while decorating their homes with lights, having firework displays and distributing gifts.
The Accord Coalition which seeks reform of faith schools, of which Ekklesia is a founder member, is currently seeking nominations awards which recognise schools promoting religious inclusion