Pupils TV link-up helps to bridge the cultural gap PUPILS in St Neots made their television debuts discussing nuclear testing, Islamic dress code, immigration and the war in Iraq with students from around the world. Sixth-formers from Longsands College

Hamid Reza, spoke to Longsands pupils about the media’s portrayal of Iran.

Pupils' TV link-up helps to bridge the cultural gap

PUPILS in St Neots made their television debuts discussing nuclear testing, Islamic dress code, immigration and the war in Iraq with students from around the world.

Sixth-formers from Longsands College linked up with schools in Iran and the US as part of School Day 24, a record-breaking on-air link-up.

The day was organised by BBC World aimed at building bridges by linking schools across conflicts, tensions and divides.

BUILDING BRIDGES: Alice Peel, Matthew Usher, Michael Gilks and Jack Kiteley, sixth-formers from Longsands College, took part in the School Day 24 live broadcasts. Pictures: HUNTS POST

Matthew Usher, 17, from Longsands College who asked questions live on air to students in Iran, said: "We are the next generation and I think it's important to find out the differences between countries, especially in terms of freedom, finances and education.

"It was quite stressful asking the questions live on air but the responses were very interesting and allowed us to share our experiences and hear some from people on the other side of the world."

Last Wednesday's event was aired on BBC World, BBC Breakfast News and News24 to an international audience of 200 million.

One of the topics discussed was the Islamic dress code. Maedeh, a student from the Islamic Azad University, said: "I am wearing a chador and I really believe in it and I chose it myself.

"I'm not forced to wear something like that and I want to say, beside my own belief, every country has its own laws and its own regulations and as a civilised person we all obey and respect our countries' laws."

When asked her opinion on the Islamic dress code, Amy Hodkinson, from Longsands College said she believed in freedom of expression.

"I think it is a person's choice what you wear. It's as much a person in Iran's choice whether to wear their headdress or headscarf or whatever they want as it is to wear the clothes I want in Britain."

The question of how Iran was portrayed in the worldwide media was brought up by Helen Williams, from Longsands College.

In response to this issue, Hamzeh, from Iran, said: "We are the victim of America's policy. We need to be supported by the media, not criticised. We are a peaceful nation."

Another issue debated was the war in Iraq. Azadeh, from Iran, said: "When I was six or seven we used to live in Khuzestan and I still remember the bombing and the noises and I will never get rid of them."

Hilary, from Chicago, thought that America had made a mistake going to war. She said: "On Iraq, I think we definitely started too soon and it wasn't until after we started we realised our mistake.

"Definitely with Iran, if we are about to start anything we should take our time."

The day also revealed that youngsters in Iran are perhaps a bit dated in terms of music admitting that they are big fans of the Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion.

Assistant principal Leigh Adams said about the day: "We have a well established relationship with the BBC and it is good to see pupils getting involved and learning more about international relations and topics."

Other live link-ups included schools in Sri Lanka, Colombo, Mexico and Kenya.

As well as being filmed by a BBC crew, the Longsands students were also captured on film by a group of Year 8 students making a documentary about how School Day 24 was made.

When finished, the documentary will be posted on the college website.

INFORMATION: School Day 24 is part of the BBC's Generation Next project, which ran from December 2-10 to provide an insight into the lives of young people in different countries. The idea was born out of a project carried out by BBC News24 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, where the channel linked up with a school in Wigan, Lancashire, and a school in Soweto. To find out more, visit www.bbc.co.uk/generationnext