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'Meet the Somalis' - Comics in Schools


Comics in Schools is a multimedia resource commissioned by Open Society Foundations, using issue-based comics and creative tools to understand and tackle barriers to achievement and engagement in schools. 


These multimedia resources are based on the OSF-funded project Meet the Somalis comics, and emerged out of initial workshop sessions with pupils of Somali origin at William Ellis School in North London. We are now expanding the resources to address identity and social issues with young people of all backgrounds in other schools and communities. 


The online resource presents a selection of materials, perspectives and activities to use to explore social issues in an educational setting. Issues include identity and belonging, migration, intergenerational communication/conflict, literacy, teacher understanding and expectation, and school and community relations. 


The project was based on the Meet the Somalis comics, an OSF-funded project produced by Positive Negatives telling the stories of individuals and families in seven cities around Europe.

The Need 

  • Pupils of Somali origin in the UK are currently one of the lowest performing groups in terms of educational attainment and Somali-heritage pupils are disproportionately at risk of being excluded from schools. You can read more about Maslaha’s resource on this here. 

  • Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Black African groups consistently perform below the national average 

  • The achievement gap is not just about poverty, it relates to other factors such as social class and ethnicity (“The Social Class Gap for Educational Achievement: A Review of the Literature”, RSA, 2010) 

  • Unconsciously or consciously teachers can have low expectations of pupils based on their cultural backgrounds. Research has shown this has a hugely detrimental effect on pupils and their ability to have the opportunity to flourish at school. 

  • Cultural diversity and local context is broadly not well-reflected in school curricula and this has been shown to raise engagement and aspiration. 

What We Did 

  • Working together with London boroughs, schools, families, and community organisations, we took the comics as a base to practically address issues facing Somali communities in London.  

  • The original resources were produced in 2015 in partnership with Open Society Foundation, Positive Negatives and a group of Somali pupils at William Ellis School in Camden.   

  • In William Ellis School, we worked to produce resources that reflect the visual and aural tradition of Somalia in a non-traditional way.  The resources explore three broad themes; feeling powerless, stereotypes and feeling under pressure. All of these themes emerged strongly during workshop sessions with pupils at William Ellis School, and are also evident in the original comics. 

  • In 2016 we explored how the resources could be used with different communities in different contexts and ran a project with Crown Hills Community College in Leicester. We did this alongside a resident artist Soofiya Andry and two young men from Leicester, who we started working with during our All We Are project. With this run of the project we focused on the themes of; local success, struggle as part of success and stereotypes and how to challenge them. 

  • If you are interested in running a project using our resources and issue-based comics to explore identity and social issues, please get in touch. 


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