By Zara Cheng
As a visitor observing a Catholic-Muslim School Link for the first time, I was struck by the ease with which the students from the two schools got along with each other. They were so comfortable with each other that they could have belonged to the same school if only their uniforms had not given them away! I was only told afterwards that the partnership started off with some initial distance and awkwardness between the girls. It just shows what School Linking can achieve.
As a teacher myself, I was impressed by the dedication of the teachers in planning and delivering an enriching programme full of meaningful activities on the link day. One activity involved students from the two schools exchanging ideas when mapping out their life journey in a creative piece. The form of the piece was left to the students’ imagination, and their creativity really shone through. Some traced their life journeys through space from planet to planet, or as a tree bearing fruits to symbolise their achievements.
Two pieces of work left a lasting impression on me. One group of girls used the ‘snakes and ladders’ analogy to describe their journey up a mountain to reach their goal in life. Snakes stood for failures or sins, a concept shared by both the Catholic and Muslim girls in the group, whereas ladders stood for the hope, peace and joy that made it possible to get back on track. It was clear that the activity created a forum for interfaith dialogue and made it possible for students to discover shared values.
Another group decided to highlight two potential paths to their life goals: the short and easy route, achieving overnight success; the long and hard route, full of setbacks along the way. Surprisingly, when asked which route they would take, all chose the longer route, in stark contrast to what is often promoted in the media today. When questioned on the reasoning behind their choice, it became apparent that their mentality stemmed from the values passed on from their parents, who often had a strong faith background. They recognized the value of learning from past mistakes and the importance of hard work in overcoming hurdles in a person’s life struggle.
The link day was a wonderful experience and it was great to see the potential of interfaith education in School Linking –in encouraging interfaith dialogue between students and in providing opportunities for interfaith collaboration between schools.