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How much is a person worth?

To think about the value of human life and the importance of education.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To think about the value of human life and the importance of education.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need six £1 coins (or the rough equivalent in local currency, such as 9 euros or 10 dollars).
  • A range of items each costing approximately £6, e.g. a fancy box of chocolates, a pack of socks, a cinema ticket, a portion of meat.
  • Prepare two volunteers to read Venkatamma’s story: one narrates and the other reads Venkatamma’s words. Alternatively the story could be split between more readers.
  • A Bible if you are reading Luke 12.6–7.

Assembly

  1. Ask the children what they could buy with £6. Value all sensible suggestions and if appropriate add some suggestions of your own to ensure that there is a shared concept of the value of £6. 
  2. Ask if a monetary value can be put on a person. Depending on the age of the children, encourage discussion about how people relate to monetary value, such as the cost of schooling, wages, how much a person spends on themselves, and the cost of healthcare. Draw the discussion towards the idea that people can’t be ‘priced’ in the way that objects and services can – or can they?
  3. Introduce Venkatamma’s story:

    Reader: Venkatamma is 11 and goes to school in Andhra Pradesh in southern India. But until a short time ago she spent all day, every day, looking after ten buffaloes. It was hard work for a child. They weren’t even her own family’s buffaloes – they belonged to a farmer who Venkatamma had been sold to. And do you know how much her family got paid in return for selling her? £6. Not £6 a day, or even a week; just £6 in total. Her family didn’t want to sell her, but they had no choice because they were so poor. Venkatamma says:

    Venkatamma: One day one of the buffaloes went into someone else’s field and ruined the crops there. The farmer was very angry and he beat me. I escaped by running away to my sister’s home. I cried and cried and stopped eating. I kept saying, ‘I want to go to school.’ After three days, my sister brought me to the Bridge School.

    Reader: The Bridge School is run by an Indian organization supported by charities in the UK. It is for children who haven’t been to school before. Venkatamma has been at the school for about a year now and it has changed her life. She says:

    Venkatamma: I would like to go to university. I want to become something important like a teacher and feel that I am helping the community.
  4. Remind the children that Venkatamma was sold for just £6 – which would only buy you a few music tracks or a cheap DVD. But thanks to charities here and in India, she’s now going to school. Why do you think going to school is so important? Value the children’s suggestions and get to the key points:

    • Children can learn things that will help them to get a job.
    • They can learn how to be more healthy and stay safe.
    • They can help their community and their country to climb out of poverty.
  5. Also take ideas that suggest that school may not be always popular. It doesn’t always feel like a good thing and sometimes, like when you have to get up on a cold, dark school morning, or be inside when the sun is shining, we can all think of other places we might like to be. But without education in this country we would be living in a society of extreme poverty for most and extreme wealth for a few. Education is the way out of poverty and ignorance, and that’s what we want for children across the world like Venkatamma.
  6. More than 100 million children across the world don’t get the chance to go to school. That’s 100 million children like Venkatamma who either have to work instead of going to school, or have to stay at home because their parents can’t afford to send them to school.
  7. You could read Luke 12.6–7. Explain that Christians and members of other faiths believe that God cares for each one of us, and values us as worth a bit more than two pennies, or £6, or any sum of money you care to name!

Time for reflection

Reflection

How much are you worth?

Think of any sum of money you can – it won’t be enough.

Think of the most expensive thing possible: a private plane, a private spacecraft, your own island, your own country, your own planet, your own universe … But none of these things can think and feel and live and love like you can. You’re priceless.

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for caring for each of us.

We thank you that we are able to come to school without paying.

We think of Venkatamma and how she was sold for just £6.

We thank you for the work of charities that have made it possible for her to go to school.

Help us to be grateful for our education

and to do all we can to make sure that the 100 million children around the world who aren’t in school at the moment will be very soon.

Amen.

Song/music

‘God is love’ (Come and Praise, 39)

Publication date: December 2008   (Vol.10 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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