Poverty trap simulation
As part of U4’s Global Connections topic in Geography they were treated to an unexpected immersion into the lives of others living under less fortunate circumstances, on 19th November.
The ‘Poverty Trap’ simulation took the entire year group into a school-based simulation of a slum in a developing country.
The immersive activity allowed the girls to get a glimpse of what it might be like to live life in absolute poverty. They were grouped into ‘families’ and led in to a ‘slum’ created in the Main Hall.
After a thought-provoking introduction by the charity team leader from the charity ‘Empathy Action’ about poverty and the experiences of people living in slums in Bangladesh, the pace very suddenly accelerated as the girls were ‘forced’ into work to pay their rent to the Slum Lord and his henchmen.
To a loud background ‘slum’ soundtrack, they were encouraged to make paper bags by the Slum Lord and his henchmen (played with enthusiasm by the charity team and Geography Department staff) and then sell these to local traders to earn money. Inevitably, many of the ‘families’ failed to earn enough to pay their rent, causing the Slum Lord to move them into a debtor’s area ‘under the bridge’ controlled by an oppressive loan shark. Families continued to struggle to survive, furiously producing paper bags and resorting to unconventional methods to pay their rent (selling possessions and even their children!).
During the afternoon, the struggle to survive on very low incomes quickly became apparent to the girls. Regular reflective interludes were injected to focus student thinking on the issues faced by those living under such conditions.
The ‘Poverty Trap’ simulation is designed to provoke pupils into thinking more deeply about the causes and consequences of poverty, something which is almost impossible to achieve in class or through reading a text book. Follow up in subsequent Geography classes confirmed how much impact the exercise had on the girls thinking about poverty. The impact of the simulation was also reflected in some very upbeat comments by current members of our Sixth Form who, upon seeing and hearing this year’s simulation, reminisced fondly about their own experiences of the activity when they were in U4.
Mr Desmond O’Driscoll, Geography teacher, said: “We would like to thank the team from ‘Empathy Action’ for delivering such a memorable experience for our U4 geographers and hope that the event has helped our students to ‘travel a mile in someone else’s shoes’ and appreciate what life might be like for people living elsewhere on the planet.”