New Saragarhi school resource to ensure children taught about Sikh contribution to Britain

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As the school year begins, a new education resource for teachers based around an epic British Indian frontier battle is being published in the UK, to ensure the historic contribution made by Sikhs fighting for Britain is taught in classrooms.

“Saragarhi: Sikhs and their contribution to Britain” has been developed with school teachers and educators who say there are not enough resources available for pupils to learn about the different faiths who fought and served Great Britain during Empire.

The school resource, containing films and lesson plans, is designed for use in classes on history, citizenship and religious education. It focuses on the battle of Saragarhi, which took place on the 12th September 1897, to educate Key Stage 3 and 4 level children about Sikhs and Sikhism.

Writer and filmmaker Capt. J. Singh-Sohal launched “Saragarhi Day” in Britain and has extensively written, researched and made a film about the battle which forms a part of the school resource. He said: “Throughout our work over the past decade we have found parents frustrated that the Indian contribution is not taught in schools and teachers with an interest in this field unable to connect with the relevant authoritative resources to include these subjects in their lessons. I felt it therefore necessary to utilise our research and productions into Saragarhi to create an educational pack so that pupils can get a better understanding of Sikhs, Sikhism and our strong connection to Britain.”

The pack is edited by Sikh lecturer and writer Harjinder Singh, who said: “This is an essential resource for teachers and educators working in the fields of history and community cohesion. It cuts across many curriculum areas and will enrich learning for children in schools and out of school activities such as summer camps and informal educational activities. It brings to light, the themes of military service, heroism, loyalty and the politics of identity and colonialism, creating debate and developing critical thinking.”

Ms Tejinder Rajput, Psychology Lead Practitioner at Dwight School of London said: “This educational pack provides a fresh perspective. Such golden historical events are hidden from the main national curriculum. The pack has built cross curricular links between citizenship, history and religious education. It is a must-have for teachers to include in their curriculum design and will definitely liven up classrooms!”

Saragarhi is an ideal example of Indian heroism to use to show the bravery and valour of those from the subcontinent. During the battle, 21 soldiers of the 36th (Sikh) Regiment of the Indian Army under the British found themselves surrounded by 10,000 enemy tribesmen during an uprising on the North West Frontier between colonial India and Afghanistan (in modern day Pakistan).

Instead of surrendering the brave 21 fought to the last man despite the odds, in an engagement lasting more than six hours but with limited ammunition. Their heroism became an overnight sensation and was honoured by the British who built several memorials to them including in Amritsar and awarded those who died a posthumous Indian Order of Merit – then the highest gallantry award available to native Indians, and on par with the Victoria Cross.

With Indian independence in 1947, the battle honours and Saragarhi commemorations transferred to the Indian Army. But more recently there has been a revival of remembering and marking Saragarhi with the British Army hosting a Saragarhi “beacon event” each year since 2013 to remember the battle and the contribution of Sikhs in it.

The education resource contains teacher lesson plans and factual information about the battle, as well as the ground-breaking film “Saragarhi: The True Story”. It has been made possible with funding support from the Armed Forces Covenant, and will help assist in teaching history, citizenship and religious education to children at Key State 3 and 4.

The resource is available for free for school teachers via this website.

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