Bangalore: In an effort to promote inclusivity and diversity along with educating students on the importance of equality, Canadian International School (CIS) hosted its first symposium for inclusivity at its campus. The event aimed at understanding the biases prevailing in the society and sensitize students on various societal issues related to gender, race, colour etc. As a part of the symposium awareness building activities focusing on the school’s role in building inclusive communities was conducted. The event involved workshops on human rights, sign language, capacity building, building and sustaining diverse communities, roundtable and panel discussions with esteemed panellists and performance from the students from the Bubbles Centre for Autism.
Several activists such as Ms. Akkai Padmashali, transgender activist, Ms. Nitya Ram, Head of Learning, Change.org, Ms. Nirmala Menon, Founder, Interweave Consulting, Ms. Pratibha Byanna, Shanti Bhavan Graduate, and Ms. Richa Singh, Corporate Learning and Development Manager, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group expressed their views on the several topics such as LGBTQ, Neurodiversity, Gender, Race disability, diversity and social class during the panel discussion. Akkai Padmashali who was also the keynote speaker at the event informed students about her activism work and her achievements and also educated them on the challenges which transgender face and how policies framed by the Indian government has helped in improving their lives.
As an international school with a large multicultural community, inclusion has always been an integral part of CIS. Student bodies at the school have been playing an active role in creating awareness to build a more inclusive community. CIS students believe that creating a sense of belonging will help them integrate better into the society and will aid them in achieving their educational goals. The school has actively been conducting several workshops and roundtables discussions involving participation from high school students and faculty members to educate students in areas of neurodiversity, race, social class, disability diversity, LGBTQ, and gender.
When asked – “What are some practices or policies that stand out to you as being excellent in their approach to inclusivity in your work with schools?”, Ms. Nitya Ram, Head of Learning, Change.org said: ” Schools can adopt several key practices such as building a culture that respects all people on the school campus, which means that students are considered to be entitled to as much respect as a teacher and the cleaning/cafeteria staff – they are also entitled to as much respect as the school head. Additionally, adopting deep listening practices like creating teacher mentors for a group of students, especially adolescents, will help these teachers understand the perspectives of the children. Often marginalized students, who feel alienated and tend act out are seen as troublemakers in many schools, however, through such a mechanism, educators will be able to support such students during trying times and will be able to give them a sense of belonging at the school. Furthermore, schools can create safe spaces/forums for students to speak up without fear which will further enhance their learning and make them more confident while expressing their views.”
“Inclusion needs to be an ongoing practice which acknowledges that each child in the school has special needs and the building of such a culture will ensure that these needs are met. I believe that through this symposium, the CIS students have done an amazing job. The one thing which really impressed me was the sensitivity to every diverse kind of community that the students showed throughout the day. I think we are in the right place, we have started these conversations and I hope they are going to lead the change across India in making our country a more inclusive place,” she further added while lauding the effort taken by the school to build more inclusive communities.
“I am really glad to have been part of organizing this symposium. I really hope this is a continued effort and not just a one-year thing. I feel like opening up conversations on these diverse topics is really important. Getting people together to start this kind of conversations is something that we can do. That’s how I can check my privilege and help minorities.” said Zahwa Hussain, CIS Allies member and IB2 student.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Shweta Sastri, Managing Director, Canadian International School said: “CIS’ Symposium for Inclusivity was a great initiative by our student group, CIS Allies. Students worked hard to create awareness in areas such as LGBTQ, Gender, Social Class, and Race. We are very proud to build such a wonderful platform for inclusivity.”