J2H Blogs

British Somali History Enquiry:
'Unpacking the suitcase?' Part 1

02 April 2014

Justice2History Blog: Our colleague David Stewart has been teaching our Enquiry on British Somali History for the first time in a boys comprehensive school in inner London. You can read about the enquiry in the new edition of Teaching History, but here is David’s story of how the enquiry went when he taught it:

British Somali History Enquiry: ‘Unpacking the Suitcase?’ Part 1

I’ve just finished teaching the first lesson from the British Somali history enquiry and it received a fantastic response from my students. The lesson built up towards a reveal of the enquiry question at which point eight or nine hands shot up across the class; they were desperate to try and answer the question and it was a fantastic moment. I know that the boys are going to come to the next lesson full of curiosity and with lots of ideas.

We had a particularly rewarding discussion about nomads and settlers; two of the concepts the enquiry develops. ‘Nomad’ was a new word for them but they quickly picked it up. One boy asked if the gypsy community was nomadic and then said proudly to the class that he had gypsy ancestors. This prompted another student to tell us that he himself was a settler because he grew up in Germany but then moved to England with his family a couple of years ago.

The class got a lot from the packed suitcase as a metaphor for the Somali immigrant experience. ‘The suitcase would be a like a wardrobe for the nomad’ commented one boy. ‘For both of them it would be very valuable’ said another, who then went on to identify the difference that the settler would unpack their suitcase but the nomad wouldn’t, which led us perfectly on to the question we’ll be grappling with over the next five lessons - ‘Why did Somali people finally unpack their suitcases in Britain?’

Suitcase 1Suitcase 2