The final installment in a series of blogs behind the scenes of the Refugee Festival Scotland programme.

I’ve been out and about meeting groups who feature in our programme because they embody the festival theme of solidarity.

For this final blog, I headed to St. Albert’s Primary School in Pollokshields. Before I even walked through the school gates, this felt like a special place. Near the gates I could see a tree covered in handwritten messages from pupils that remained from the school’s spin-off of the Turner Prize.

I was there to chat to a group of friends. Rayan, Hajer, Yusuf and Hamza are all seven-years-old, yet they have slightly different histories.

Hamza and Rayan arrived from Syria last year. I was amazed as they chatted away with me and their friends in a broad Glaswegian accent having known no English before they arrived.

These energetic seven-year-olds showed me around their playground, and they were instantly drawn to the colourful blackboard painted on a brick wall.

Hajer, from Scotland with Iraqi heritage, started writing her name in Arabic in bright yellow chalk. When she switched back to writing in English she wrote her name backwards by mistake. Hajer told me that she is learning to write in Arabic.

Back in the classroom we talked about school, their friendships and where they came from. It was as lively as the playground and we even got talking about favourite foods.

Hamza Al Hussin, Syrian

“When I first arrived in Scotland I went to a football match. Our seats were really high up and I was scared of going down the stairs.

“My favourite thing about school is being able to count to 100. I like doing the really hard work, with hard sums.”

Hajer AL-Dalla Ali, Scottish

“My favourite thing about school is art and painting, but I also like numbers.

“I was born here but my family is from Iraq. I speak Arabic and English.

“My favourite food is a tuna sandwich. In Iraq there are more different types of fruit. We don’t buy watermelon here because it costs a lot of money but in Iraq we can buy it because it doesn’t cost a lot.”

Yusuf Rafiq, Scottish

“I just like playing at school. Being at school makes me much more awake.

“I’m from Scotland but my family is in Pakistan so I visit them sometimes.”

Rayan Al Boushi, Syrian

“I like to do work, especially my timetables, two, five and ten-times tables.

“I’m from Syria and I speak two languages.

“My favourite food is pizza. Fruit is the same in Syria. Banana, apples, and oranges are all the same.

“I like running and gym club but yesterday I fell down and hurt my hand.”

I think we can all learn from this group of school friends. Children are resilient and welcoming by nature.

You can read more about our case studies featured in the Refugee Festival Scotland brochure on our blogs page.


Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew