A North London School’s Battle Against Knife Crime: Educating Beyond the Curriculum

On a quiet morning in North London, amidst the bustling corridors of Acland Burghley School, a campaign named ‘The 21’ is not just a numerical figure but a poignant reminder of the young lives lost to knife violence. In February 2023, this initiative took a significant leap forward, propelled by the dedicated efforts of Hiri Arunagiri, a senior teacher with a vision that extends well beyond traditional education. This story delves into the heart of a community’s struggle against youth violence, highlighting an approach where prevention through education takes center stage.

A Proactive Approach to Education

Hiri Arunagiri, with over six years of experience at Acland Burghley School, is no stranger to the challenges that urban youth face today. Following the tragic stabbing of 15-year-old Elianne Andam in Croydon, the urgency to address youth violence and the culture of carrying knives has never been more apparent. Hiri believes that schools play a pivotal role in not only educating students academically but also preparing them to navigate life’s complexities safely. His advocacy for educational programs that encompass knife crime awareness, mental health support, and financial literacy aims to equip students with the knowledge to make informed decisions and avoid dangerous situations.

Collaborative Efforts and Community Engagement

Understanding that the issue of youth violence requires a collective solution, Acland Burghley School collaborates with various organizations, including Camden Council and the Somali Youth Development Resource Centre. Together, they deliver programs like ‘Choices’ for Year 9 students, providing a safe space for young people to express themselves, learn about the consequences of violence, and understand the importance of making positive choices. This initiative is a testament to the power of community engagement in addressing social issues, offering a beacon of hope for students who may feel isolated or misunderstood.

The Importance of Open Discussion

In Hiri’s words, “We cannot shy away from difficult conversations.” This philosophy underscores the importance of having open discussions about incidents of violence, thereby demystifying and destigmatizing the topic among young people. By fostering an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their fears and experiences, the school aims to break the cycle of violence that plagues many communities. This approach not only helps in preventing potential incidents but also plays a crucial role in supporting students’ overall well-being.

As we reflect on the efforts of Hiri Arunagiri and the Acland Burghley School, it becomes evident that tackling youth violence requires more than just punitive measures. It demands a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of violence, including loneliness, lack of opportunities, and mental health issues. By educating young people about the dangers of knife crime and empowering them to make positive choices, we can hope to see a future where campaigns like ‘The 21’ are no longer necessary. Yet, as this initiative continues to shine a light on the urgent need for action, we are reminded of the long road ahead in the fight against youth violence.


Recommended For You